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Review from GLBT Bookshelf

by Mel Keegan


From The LL Book Review

July 27, 2012

By Shannon Yarbough


Review from Let's Book It

 June 6, 2012

(Note: The reviewer opens by responding to the author's statement that the book is a work of fiction.)

Be that as it may, this book reads like a memoir. It is a sometimes sad, sometimes funny, sometimes dramatic, sometimes painful, always real journey of self-discovery for Vincent Pirelli. Vinnie is a bike loving boy growing up in a highly dysfunctional family during the turbulent times of the late 50's through the 60's and beyond. All Vinnie wants is his alcoholic Dad's love and approval, a bike and to fill the hole inside of him. The problem is that he will never earn his dad's love and approval, he often can't afford a bike and he doesn't know how to fill the hole. His emotions confuse him - why is he attracted to men? He can't be gay ... or can he?

An Impossible Dream Story is an enlightening portrayal of a young man coming to terms with his sexuality and, by extension, himself, but it is also a book we all can learn from. Each of us must learn to be true to our passions - no matter what they may be and no matter what others believe they should be. It is a call to dream big and follow those dreams. The underlying strength that Vinnie possesses, whether he knows it or not, endeared him to me almost instantly. It was this desire to know that everything worked out for him that pulled me through the occasional slow spot in the narrative.

 Review from Literary R&R

 April 29, 2012

This books provides an intimadte look inside author's past.  With this type of writing, the reader is able to really get to know who he is, why he is the person he's become and feel a sense of closeness to him.

All children (or at least the ones I know) love bicycles, but Vinny's bike seemed to mean much more to him than to other children. Being the only son, Vinny was always seeking his dad's approval and recognition of Vinny's masculinity. Acquiring a bicycle at age six helped Vinny to feel "all boy, worthy to be Dad's one-and-only junior."

From childhood to present day, the reader follows Vinny on his journey through life. You will feel his joy (and relief) of falling in love, his pain of separation from close friends, his exaltation and pride from completing a 5,000 mile bike journey across the continent to, finally, his peace and overwhelming contentment at being with the love of his life.

There are some language and content issues that immature persons should not read. There are times when I felt the author went into too much detail, but that is the risk one takes when reading a book written with full disclosure. Overall moving and touching, An Impossible Dream Story will inspire and encourage struggling homosexuals.

Review from Midwest Book Review

March 22, 2012

An impossible dream story is a work of fiction, but author J.V. Petretta draws heavily upon his own life experiences to bring to life this novel of coming to terms with personal identity. Vinny Pirelli has loved bicycling since he was six; he pedaled in part to escape the darker elements of his life. An abusive, alcoholic father; horrifying incidents of sexual violence; even his own attraction to other boys led him to repress more and more, even as he grew up, joined the military, married, and sought business success. Ultimately he must confront the secrets he has been hiding from everyone, especially himself, and come out about his sexual identity to his wife. Recklessly pursuing sexual freedom brings a terrible price, and a diagnosis of AIDS. Now a sixty-five year-old man facing the prospect of sickness and early death, Vinny fights back by daring to embark upon a 2,500 mile bicycle-book tour. Dreams, determination, and drive fuel this emotional and compelling saga, highly recommended.

 Review and rambling from Elisa, Italy

February 22, 2012


Review on The Empty Closet

By James Mack

A Published version appeared on The Empty Closet, Rochester, NY

February 2012, number 453, page 28

J. V. Petretta’s first novel, An Impossible Dream Story, (Dog Ear Publishing, 2011) begins as the story of a young man’s struggle to find his identity in a quickly changing world and ends decades later as the main character faces and overcomes one of his greatest challenges. Very loosely based on an outline of the author’s own experiences (which have been embellished then further fictionalized), the novel introduces us to Vinny, a child growing up in Indiana during the sixties who despite many talents receives very little approval from his hard-drinking, tough-talking father. Vinny’s love affair with bicycle riding offers a safe harbor in the midst of this chaotic home life from which he has “big time” dreams of escaping, surviving, thriving and, finally, succeeding.

Years pass. Vinny joins the U.S. Army and does a stint in Southeast Asia, gets married and starts a family, then becomes a successful businessman. After many years of internal struggles, he eventually comes out of the closet. Unlike a typical coming out story where the character’s coming out signals the end of the story, this story continues with Vinny’s head-first dive into unbridled sexual adventures, resulting in him facing another challenge-- an HIV diagnosis. Undeterred by this diagnosis, Vinny returns to his beloved sport of bicycle riding and organizes a 5000 mile cross country bicycle tour to raise funds and promote awareness of AIDS.

The story is told in the first person from Vinny’s perspective and realistically chronicles the character’s personal struggles, emotional setbacks and eventual achievements. The author’s references to the time periods being described are sharp and concise and when necessary, his depictions are appropriately technical but not too fussy. In general, the author’s writing style is informal; he favors alliteration, rhythm and balance of words and sounds which makes reading the novel a pleasure. Describing one of his first bicycle races he writes: “I don’t know if it was my damned determination, or perhaps the weird way I wobbled Paula’s two-wheeled wagon, but no one dared devour my lead.” The format of the novel is quite unique: the author inserts song lyrics and poems he has written at the end of each chapter which add a deeper understanding to the pages the reader has just read.

Much of the later part of the novel takes place in Western New York -- Vinny moves to Buffalo—and in fact most of the novel was written while the author was living with his partner in Rochester, offering an added level of interest for local readers.

An Impossible Dream Story is an honest story of love, loss, redemption and self-discovery. It highlights the mistakes, misses, triumphs and rewards one experiences on a challenging journey through life written in a style that is both easy and fun to read. It is a welcome addition to anyone’s bookshelf.

~~ James Mack holds a BA and an MBA from SUNY at Buffalo, and is an avid supporter of the arts in Western New York. He is President of the Board of Buffalo United Artists, a theater-producing group, and is a supporting member of the Albright Knox Art Gallery, the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Shea's Performing Arts Center.

Review from Shelly's LGBT Book Review Blog

February 06, 2012

Shelly wrote a very nice full review with quite a few of her personal connections with the book .  Please read it through this link:


American Library Association GLBT Round Table

Review by Dr. James Anderson

ALA GLBT RT Spring 2012 Newsletter Volume 24 (1), page 11

J. V. Petretta confesses that his novel, which reads like a memoir or autobiography, is “inspired by many true events in my life.” The hero of this great story is Vincent (Vinnie, “Viper”) Pirelli, a young boy growing up in Indiana in the 1950s and ‘60s. With a homophobic, berating father and an indifferent mother, young Vinnie finds escape from his difficult home life by excelling in a number of jobs and riding on his beloved bicycle.

Years later Vinnie escapes to the military, where he falls in love with a fellow soldier, “Bobby Sox,” but both are afraid to demonstrate their love with anything other than sleeping chastely together and roughhousing. He later marries a Thai woman whom he meets during military R&R.  They raise a family and are happy together until Vinnie finally comes to terms with his deep feelings for men.  When they painfully divorce, his wife takes everything.

Still trying to win his father’s praise, Vinnie leaves his successful military career when his father calls him home with the promise of a good job. The job disappears, and he starts all over again at the bottom, this time in the restaurant business, where he succeeds once again. He begins living a gay life-style, going overboard to make up for lost time, and contracts HIV. He ends up homeless and very ill in Buffalo, NY, and relies on the VA hospital that cares for and nurtures him.

Returning to his boyhood love of biking, Vinnie cooks up a harebrained scheme to ride a bike with a trailer 5,000 miles across the country to raise money for AIDS research and support. He sets out from Buffalo, riding west against prevailing winds, learning only later that most cross-country bikers ride in the opposite direction to benefit from the winds. But he makes it to Seattle, Oregon and California, ending in San Diego.

Having returned to Buffalo, again he is very ill and homeless, living in his car.  At the VA hospital, he meets a wonderful female pastor of an open and affirming United Church of Christ, so he decides to go, and on his first visit he meets a garrulous character who turns out to be Bobby Sox, his first love.  Here the novel (memoir) ends, happily ever after, I dearly hope.

This is Peretta’s first novel.  I hope he writes more.  He is planning a big bicycle book tour (see  He had lots of help with this book, including editing, but a few infelicitous phrases ended up in the finished work, such as “an updated policy … on Equal Employment Opportunities, which included ‘sexual origin’ as an added category.”  Surely he means “sexual orientation.”  Luckily none of the editing problems cause any harm.

This is a great read even though it is painful at times, and would be worthy of any library interested in a genuine record of a difficult gay life from the 1950s to the 1990s.

~~ Dr. James Anderson is Professor Emeritus of Library and Information Science, Rutgers University, the State University of New Jersey.  He went to Harvard for his undergraduate, and earned his graduate degree from Columbia University.  Dr. Anderson is a long time GLBT activist.  As early as 1984, he was named one of 400 leading activists in the gay and lesbian liberation movement in the U.S. by The Advocate, a national gay magazine.  For over two decades, Jim served as the national communications secretary and later as members of Board for Presbyterians for Lesbian & Gay Concerns (PLGC), and the editor and publisher of its journal More Light Update.  PLGC became More Light Presbyterians (MLP) in 1999, where they battled to remove all the anti-LGBT apartheid provisions in the church constitution and policies. He currently also serves as Treasurer of the Ometeca Institute, and managing editor of the Ometeca Journal (

Review from Dr. Raymond H. Werking, Jr.

January 29, 2012

J.V. Petretta hits the ball out of the proverbial park with his seminal work appropriately titled An Impossible Dream Story.  This novel is most certainly required reading for anyone who has ever dared to dream!  The protagonist, Vinny Pirelli, employs the vehicle of a 2,500 mile bicycle tour to represent the struggles of a gay man to deal with the challenges of homosexuality from adolescence through military service and beyond.  The ultimate symbol of a bicycle to represent freedom and the ability to move forward proves to be the perfect choice for the framework of the novel.  It becomes a device which allows a sixty-five year old man to chase away his demons and ultimately achieve a sense of self-realization and validation that few can ever attain.  Many readers from J.V. Petretta's era will experience an eerie sense of Déjà vu while turning each page with unbridled anticipation.  What a personal and literary triumph on the part of this amazing man!

~~ Dr. Raymond H. Werking, Jr. is a lifelong educator and published author who received his doctoral degree from the State University of New York at Albany.  His young adult novel, Where Do I Go from Here? , was published in 1985 to much critical acclaim.  For the last seven years, Dr. Werking has co-hosted and co-produced, HOMO Radio, an award winning international radio show broadcast live, Sundays on 91.5 FM from 10am to 2pm and streamed worldwide on .  Last fall, Dr. Werking was elected to serve on the Board of Directors of GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network).  Dr. Werking is a tireless advocate for the rights of gay youth.

“Story behind the Story” as seen on LL Book Review

January 23, 2012

Author J.V. Petretta spoke the heart behind writing “An Impossible Dream Story”.

Review from Amos Lassen

January 19, 2012

It is not often that we read a book that has us both laughing and weeping and that is exactly what J.V. Petretta’s  An Impossible Dream Story does. With humor and passion, Petretta invites us to join a ride on a bicycle that will take us through life and by coming along we learn about the struggle for LGBT equality.

Vinny Pirelli is getting ready to embark on a book tour but he is doing so by riding a bike. What makes this so interesting is that Vinny is 65 years old and he is undergoing miles and miles of pedaling (2500). He has serious medical issues but this has been his dream that began when he was a kid. He was the only boy in his family and he had a rough adolescence as he struggled with his sexuality and thereby channeled himself into bike riding and song writing so he would not have to deal with what was going on around him.

Reaching adulthood, he was successful at all he attempted. He had a family and a wife but he also had to deal with his father’s betrayal and the loss of friends. He was a leader in the United States Army and he learned to love and to trust only to discover that this was not always best. All of us have experienced what Vinny experienced but in different degrees. It is impossible not to identify with him, laugh with him and cry with him. In many cases it is shattered dreams that make us strong. We have all taken a journey like Vinny’s and we have all experienced joy and tragedy. Using that bike journey as a metaphor for life, we travel at Vinny’s side as he matures, comes out and accepts himself. I am sure Petretta has a great sense of pride in this book and we also gain pride by reading it. There is adventure, contemplation, love and sex but above all the book inspires us. It also made me want to go jump on a bike and begin pedaling for wherever (but it was 20 degrees outside). With love and laughs, highs and lows  we get a read that is a lot of fun. You do not want to miss this one. Remember, there is nothing wrong with dreaming as it gives us reason to act and I can only hope that we will all act the way Vinny did.”

~~ Amos Lassen is well-known GLBT reviewer.  He was formerly rated among the top 50 Amazon reviewers, and is highly influential in GLBT books and movies review business.  Lassen now posts to his own review website.