A striking volume of irreverent, Mormon-centric gay tales.



In this collection of short stories, gay members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints attempt to survive their sexually conservative religion.

Some devout Mormon men meet on a weekly basis and have sex with one another, though they justify it by claiming that it’s to keep them from behaving inappropriately with their girlfriends before marriage. An excommunicated gay Mormon runs into his old mission companion, who reminds him of an accidental death that occurred during a baptism. A married gay man decides he must overcome his bias by having sex with men from every race. A group of Mormons goes into a gay bar to try to convert the clientele, but things don’t go quite according to plan. In 18 stories, Townsend (Behind the Bishop’s Door, 2017, etc.) places his characters in positions that put their cultural upbringings at odds with the multifaceted realities of human sexuality. A typical example of this friction is found in “Shadow Boxing,” in which a closeted Mormon man gets a job at a video shop where gay men have sex through glory holes specifically to tease himself in order to overcome temptation: “Preston had read somewhere that the great leader Gandhi had slept every night beside naked women so he could test his moral stamina. If Preston were ever to manage marrying a woman in the temple, he had to know he could resist any and all temptation.” Townsend writes in an easy-flowing, frequently funny prose that captures the worldviews and personalities of his characters with minimal words. The tales are of a piece with his previous fictional works (quite numerous now), which rib Mormon and gay culture and make regular use of ridiculous puns (one story is called “MoreMen Tabernacle Queer”). While the author is generally at his best when working as a satirist, there are some fine, understated touches in these tales that will likely affect readers in subtle ways. Not every story lands perfectly, and Townsend sometimes stumbles into uncomfortable territory (see sex with men from every race), but readers should come away impressed by the deep empathy he shows for all his characters—even the homophobic ones.

A striking volume of irreverent, Mormon-centric gay tales.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63492-630-0

Page Count: 242

Publisher: Booklocker.com, Inc.

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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