Three Junes (2003)

by Julia Glass

The three Junes in Julia Glass's National Book Award winner are not names of people but of months. The first-time novelist drops in on her characters on three separate Junes over a decade, recounting their histories against the setting of the month's events.

In the first section, recently widowed Scotsman Paul McLeod is a group tour of the Greek islands. He reminisces about his family life with his late wife, who may have been unfaithful, and their three sons. Set six years later, the second section, the longest and only one in the first person, belongs to the oldest son, Fenno, a gay intellectual who owns a bookshop in New York City. Fenno has returned to Scotland for Paul's funeral, and as he interacts with his brothers and their spouses, analyzes the family dynamics. Equally prominent in his thoughts is Mal, his AIDS-ravaged platonic friend, who Fenno realizes too late could have been the love of his life. Another four years later, the third section centers around Fern, who lost her husband in an apparent suicide and meets Fenno through a playboy who had been a lover of both of them.

Section three might seem out of place in what until then seemed to be the McLeod family saga. But, ending with Fenno and Fern apparently launched on a firm friendship. that last part does have a role in portraying the emotional journey of Fenno from detachment to admission of his feelings and engagement with the world.

Although her prose is sometimes overdone, the warmth and sensitivity with which Glass depicts love in many forms — spouses, siblings, parents and children, lovers, and friends — recommend this novel.


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