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.