A young gay man in Atlanta starts to flourish during a drag competition.
Wall’s debut novel centers on Tyler—a gay man living in Clayton, Georgia, a mountain town in the northeastern corner of the state. Tyler works what he considers a dead-end job, and he lives at home with his mother, Daisy Mae, who doesn’t approve of his sexuality and frequently tells him “my heart has been broken ever since you told me you were gay.” Tyler is convinced to leave his oppressive home and head to nearby Atlanta by his friend Marjorie. He moves in with her—it’s his first step toward building a thriving romantic and social life as a gay man. Tyler lands a job at an upscale hotel in town, and he begins hanging out at Club Cabaret: a rollicking gay nightclub that features drag shows. Life gets more exciting when Tyler decides to become a drag queen, Desiree, and enter the Miss Club Cabaret competition—an event that is several months long, in which participants “will be partnered with a charity” of their choice for fundraising purposes. The contestant who collects the most money receives the ultimate prizes: the tiara on display at the bar and bragging rights in the drag community. The tale follows Tyler as he sets off to win riches for his charity, Atlanta Street Rescue, and it traces his trials and tribulations as he hosts benefits as Desiree, makes (and loses) new friends, and tries to navigate a tumultuous dating life. The characters in Wall’s book—including Tyler—are particularly vivid. There’s Albert, the “conservative gay…in a button-down light blue Oxford, khaki pants, and dusty bucks”; Athena Parthenos, a fiercely competitive drag queen determined to take down her rivals—in any manner necessary; and Marni, the club owner, who becomes a mentor figure to the contestants. The lighthearted book is quite racy and packed with explicit and often riotous sex scenes, but it also tackles several serious, weighty issues—particularly what it feels like for a gay individual to struggle with acceptance from a disapproving parent.
An entertaining coming-of-age story that offers both hilarious and poignant moments.