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

THE LAST DAYS LINGER

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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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s...

HOME FRONT

 The traumatic homecoming of a wounded warrior.

The daughter of alcoholics who left her orphaned at 17, Jolene “Jo” Zarkades found her first stable family in the military: She’s served over two decades, first in the army, later with the National Guard. A helicopter pilot stationed near Seattle, Jo copes as competently at home, raising two daughters, Betsy and Lulu, while trying to dismiss her husband Michael’s increasing emotional distance. Jo’s mettle is sorely tested when Michael informs her flatly that he no longer loves her. Four-year-old Lulu clamors for attention while preteen Betsy, mean-girl-in-training, dismisses as dweeby her former best friend, Seth, son of Jo’s confidante and fellow pilot, Tami. Amid these challenges comes the ultimate one: Jo and Tami are deployed to Iraq. Michael, with the help of his mother, has to take over the household duties, and he rapidly learns that parenting is much harder than his wife made it look. As Michael prepares to defend a PTSD-afflicted veteran charged with Murder I for killing his wife during a dissociative blackout, he begins to understand what Jolene is facing and to revisit his true feelings for her. When her helicopter is shot down under insurgent fire, Jo rescues Tami from the wreck, but a young crewman is killed. Tami remains in a coma and Jo, whose leg has been amputated, returns home to a difficult rehabilitation on several fronts. Her nightmares in which she relives the crash and other horrors she witnessed, and her pain, have turned Jo into a person her daughters now fear (which in the case of bratty Betsy may not be such a bad thing). Jo can't forgive Michael for his rash words. Worse, she is beginning to remind Michael more and more of his homicide client. Characterization can be cursory: Michael’s earlier callousness, left largely unexplained, undercuts the pathos of his later change of heart. 

Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s aftermath.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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