A simmering Midwestern household boils over when a gay teenager discovers sex, drugs and rock-’n’-roll circa 1967.
On the family farm in Pocatello, Idaho, Rigby John Klusener obeys his repressed, work-weary parents like a good Catholic boy should, but it doesn’t seem to do much good. His dour father hardly acknowledges him. And his mother alternates between enjoying Rigby’s high spirits—he plays dress up with his older sister—and assuring him he’s going to hell. At school, life’s equally grim: Joe Scardino regularly beats him up, and the word “queer” is sneered in his direction long before he knows what it means. Once puberty hits, bringing chronic tumescence, life gets even harder: His mother spies him in a private moment of “self abuse” and transports Rigby at 80 miles an hour down the highway to confession. His father, a raging bigot, threatens Rigby with his belt if he befriends anyone outside their church. Into this bleakness arrives Billie Cody, a large-breasted sophomore with a gimlet eye for false piety. They smoke pot, listen to the car radio, kiss a little, but mostly they talk about literature, hypocrisy and the future. When Billie finds sexual fulfillment elsewhere and winds up pregnant, everyone assumes Rigby is the father. Prom night brings everything to flash point: Rigby’s mother stalks her defiant son with a broom handle; Billie’s drunken father wants Rigby’s hide; and Scardino needs to settle an old score with his former whipping boy. Only George Serano, a notorious local full of his Indian tribe’s spiritual wisdom and a brazen passion for other men, can help Rigby find his personal path out of town. Although some of his bullying characters—the father and Scardino especially—are mere personifications of evil, Spanbauer (The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon, 1991, etc.) writes this fairly traditional coming-of-age story with a raw energy that makes it compelling.
A nostalgic paean to young “warriors of love.”