One gay man's down-home coming-of-age story.
Debut novelist Perronne presents a believable and engaging cast of characters in this quiet tale of self-realization. Mason Hamilton, the lone son of a lower-class southern family, falls for his best friend, Billy, in a town whose biggest industry is a peanut-processing plant. Though little in the plot distinguishes it from other coming-out stories–teen misfit flees the conservative confines of home and town for the more liberal embrace of the big city, where he finds the courage to explore his identity–the tale’s dual setting in rural Mississippi and pre-Katrina New Orleans contributes to its unique charm. When Billy, who also turns out to be gay, hops on a New York Cityâ€“bound bus the night of their high-school graduation, Mason is completely alienated from his surroundings–until a bottle-blond stranger rescues him from an interminable summer of ice-cream scooping at Spence’s 32 Flavors by introducing him to the local gay â€œclub” situated in a barn. Teenaged Mason’s exposure to such like-minded company inspires him to pay a momentous visit to his sympathetic Aunt Savannah, who just so happens to own a New Orleans drag club. This contrast of worlds provides the answer to Mason’s silent wishes: â€œThe majority of people were so terrified of sexuality that in my eighth-grade health class the chapter in our textbook containing the words penis and vagina had been ripped out. Here on Bourbon Street sexual images were thrown in your face, and they made it impossible for you to ignore them.” Perronne’s free-flowing passages and well-tempered sarcasm make the novel a pleasant one-sitting read, and the cliffhanger ending, as Mason chases after his first real love, will leave readers pining for more.
An enjoyable, humorous debut with great appeal to younger readers and those whose identity-formation has hinged on their sexuality.