William Jack Sibley has achieved the unimaginable with his second novel: He has made Republicans from Texas likable.
For all of their bitchiness, surface superficiality and forgivable flaws, some of the characters in “Sighs Too Deep for Words” are also funny and humane people at heart, despite their politics and 1 percent ways.
That’s not to say Sibley doesn’t take a lot of things to task in this heartwarming tale, including America’s health care system, Hollywood, Tea Party members and oil companies. There are outlandish zingers, some hilarious one-liners, very original similes and plenty of surprises as a group of residents in the small coastal fishing village of Rockport, Texas, come to know one another through chance and coincidence.
At the heart of the story is Lester, an ex-con who has come to town seeking the love of his life, a woman he has never met who has won his heart by writing to him during his nearly four-year incarceration. When he tracks her down, Lester not only gets the surprise (and disappointment) of his life, he also discovers the life he was meant to lead as a circle of people—including a closeted Episcopal minister and his sister, a couple of spoiled rich kids, a kindly and wise gas station attendant and the town’s elite summer residents—befriend him while he continues to seek the love that will make his new life complete.
Sibley’s characters are a little too clever, the comebacks a little too quick, the plot a little too treacly and the reader can see the ending coming from a hundred miles away. Despite all of that, I really liked this book. There is a deeply religious and spiritual component that you don’t often find in this genre and a profoundly existential undercurrent that runs through the pages. It opens with a quote from Romans that gives the novel its title—”Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words”—and God’s unpredictable plan is a theme that recurs in the book, which has been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award,Balcones Fiction Prize and the ForeWord Reviews Book of The Year.
Sibley, a playwright and screenwriter, has a caustic wit, but the author’s good heart shines through in the way he treats his characters and the way they treat one another with acceptance and respect. So what if it’s a little too soap opera-ish? In Sibley’s hands, that’s not a bad thing.