A well-argued but mostly unengaging story about the difficulties of being an openly gay Mormon.




A devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must reconcile his sexual orientation with his faith in McFarlan’s debut novel.

Nephi Willard isn’t just a Mormon; he’s a model Mormon who was born and raised in Utah’s Happy Valley: “Nephi was the kind of Mormon that other Mormons admire. He had never tasted coffee, tea, or alcohol, which are forbidden by the Word of Wisdom, and wasn’t even tempted to do so….He had never broken the law of chastity and despite being thirty years of age, had only ever kissed one girl.” He served two years as a missionary in Alabama and is currently the executive secretary to his ward’s bishop—an unpaid position to which he was “called.” But Nephi faces a major complication regarding his religion: He’s attracted to men. Although being gay is not, in itself, seen as a sin in the eyes of the church, acting on it is. The celibate Nephi doesn’t understand why God would make him a certain way and also deem that way to be sinful. He hopes that the church may one day change its stance on the matter, but his bishop warns him not to speak of such things. After they have a discussion about the topic, the bishop releases Nephi from his calling as his secretary and temporarily bans him from attending temple services. Nephi is so frustrated by his treatment that he throws caution to the wind and decides to try dating men. After a difficult first date with a man who isn’t interested in someone who refuses to kiss, he meets Alex, a patient person who’s willing to help Nephi—whom Alex calls a “thirty-year-old baby gay”—figure things out. However, Nephi soon realizes that his religious beliefs are as much a part of him as his sexual orientation.

McFarlan’s novel does an impressive job of laying out the stakes of being a gay Mormon—particularly one who continues to devoutly follow his religion after coming to terms with his sexuality. The book appears to be aimed at members of the faith, as Nephi routinely has theological and historical discussions that seem specifically geared toward persuading adherents who are uncomfortable with LGBT relationships. In its didacticism, it is indeed convincing; as fiction, however, it ends up being a bit dry. Nephi is a noble but fairly wooden protagonist, and McFarlan’s prose style suffers from an expositional flatness: “Even though Utah is an at-will employment state and employers can fire employees at any time for any reason, Nephi had to document all conversations carefully for HR and legal.” The book also takes a while to get started, partly because the author includes a good deal of superfluous material; for example, whenever the characters pray, which is not an infrequent occurrence, the entire prayer is rendered in the text. Things pick up after Alex appears in the story, but even then, the plot holds few relatively few surprises.

A well-argued but mostly unengaging story about the difficulties of being an openly gay Mormon.

Pub Date: Dec. 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73417-940-8

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.


Piper Manning is determined to sell her family’s property so she can leave her hometown behind, but when her siblings come back with life-changing secrets and her sexy neighbor begins to feel like “The One,” she might have to redo her to-do list.

As children, Piper and her younger siblings, Gavin and Winnie, were sent to live with their grandparents in Wildstone, California, from the Congo after one of Gavin’s friends was killed. Their parents were supposed to meet them later but never made it. Piper wound up being more of a parent than her grandparents, though: “In the end, Piper had done all the raising. It’d taken forever, but now, finally, her brother and sister were off living their own lives.” Piper, the queen of the bullet journal, plans to fix up the family’s lakeside property her grandparents left the three siblings when they died. Selling it will enable her to study to be a physician’s assistant as she’s always wanted. However, just as the goal seems in sight, Gavin and Winnie come home, ostensibly for Piper’s 30th birthday, and then never leave. Turns out, Piper’s brother and sister have recently managed to get into a couple buckets of trouble, and they need some time to reevaluate their options. They aren’t willing to share their problems with Piper, though they’ve been completely open with each other. And Winnie, who’s pregnant, has been very open with Piper’s neighbor Emmitt Reid and his visiting son, Camden, since the baby’s father is Cam’s younger brother, Rowan, who died a few months earlier in a car accident. Everyone has issues to navigate, made more complicated by Gavin and Winnie’s swearing Cam to secrecy just as he and Piper try—and fail—to ignore their attraction to each other. Shalvis keeps the physical and emotional tension high, though the siblings’ refusal to share with Piper becomes tedious and starts to feel childish.

Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296139-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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