It took me a while to get into this book, but then I really ended up enjoying it. It moves back and forth in time - in the earliest periods Ellis and Michael are 12 year old boys who are best of friends. They bonded over their shared difficult family lives. Ellis is an aspiring artist whose dreams of university are quashed when his father pulls him out of school to work in a local auto plant "like his father and his father before him". Michael has been abandoned by his parents and is living with his aunt Mabel who becomes a champion for both boys. Over time their platonic friendship grows.
However, in the chapters set in the later years we learn that Ellis has married Annie and while all three of them were originally close friends, in recent years Michael has disappeared from their lives. Throughout the book we see what happened in the intervening years to cause the rift. Told from the perspectives of both Michael and Ellis, we see a beautiful picture of friendship and unrequited love.
The book also examines in a very emotional way changing societal views on homosexuality as well as the early AIDs crisis. Some of the descriptions of palliative care for those with AIDs are heartbreaking.
I have a feeling I missed some of the underlying themes of this book (like, for example, the meaning behind the title), but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
Might be worth another read at some time in the future to see if I can get even more out of it.