Rating: 3.5 out of 5
This book was definitely an eye opener for me about the struggles a homosexual individual, especially a religious individual, has to endure.
In short, Garrard Conley is the 19-year-old son of a pastor in the small town of Arkansas who struggles with his sexuality. When he get “outed” to his parents, they give him the option to go to church-support conversion therapy program to “cure” him of his homosexuality or risk losing his family and friends. During his experience, Conley must confront his past while tracing the relationships with his family, his friends and God.
This book was definitely heartbreaking. I had always heard about conversion therapy but I guess never really thought of it as something that honestly happened. So upon opening this book and finding him being sent to one, I was definitely riled. How could this be happening? Granted his experience happens in 2004, before LGBTQ really comes to the forefront, but still. This is the 21st century. Really?!
Conley definitely does a good job describing the emotional journey of being stripped of everything he knows and while the program is meant to build him back up to becoming “straight” it was bittersweet reading how Conley finds his way.
It pains me to give him 3.5 stars, especially because it’s hard for me to judge someone else’s experience, but the book definitely has some flaws.
For one thing, the book flip-flops between the past and present but there are no dates or transitions and it becomes confusing. There are parts where I had to stop and go back to see where we were in the timeline of events. I think the problem lies in the fact that the whole experience happens in such a short time span. While I understand why Conley wrote the book the way he did, it may have just been easier to write the book in sequential order.
My other issue was that I wish he went into more detail in certain areas. Obviously, this is a painful story to tell and there were definitely parts where he didn’t want to rehash things, but in others I feel like the reader is lost and has to guess at what he is trying to say. I feel that here is where his message may get lost for some.
In terms of describing his experience and journey, this book gets a 5 star rating. I definitely learned a lot and the emotional tides of his experience stayed with me. However, as a whole, it could have been better.