Let's Get Back to the Party

By Zak Salih. (Algonquin, 288 pages, $25.95.)

I did not like the cover of this novel. Possibly my opinion is too frank, but it is true. No matter what the good nuns had to say about the covers of books in my childhood, covers do count.

However, when I finished reading the book, I wanted to read it again, from the beginning.

"Let's Get Back to the Party" — author Zak Salih's debut novel — opens at the wedding of two men in Washington, D.C. Sebastian Mote attends as a plus one, reluctantly. Sebastian's boyfriend has recently left him for a life in California and he is hurting.

Across the reception hall, Sebastian sees Oscar Burnham, his childhood friend and secret crush, dressed in black, as if for a funeral. Schoolteacher Sebastian is not uncomfortable with a life that would include marriage, settling down, a wedding. Graphic designer Oscar will always desire outsider status; he couldn't care less about marriage equality, family, children. Two distinct planets on the great gay divide crash.

Salih's accomplishment is how much he made me care about both of these characters. I felt tension, worry and hope, watching their worlds collide.