5 I can’t believe what I just read stars
ETA: See also Sara's incredible review of this book
As a child, William began to have “improper” thoughts about other boys. Fearing what this meant, he turned to his parents for help. Their response sending him for “treatments” that were frankly rather inhumane resulted in a 30-something William who is still totally in the back of the closet and completely repressed.
While working on his dissertation, William takes a job as the caretaker for a long-since closed mental asylum. He lives there with the responsibility of ensuring that the facilities are not vandalized or trespassed upon. Exploring the facilities, he comes across a tin box of old letters written by one of the “patients” at the facility in the 1930's, a young man named Bill.This next paragraph is slightly spoilerish
Bill’s never sent letters to his lover, John, tell the story of how he was committed by his family to “cure” him of his homosexuality. The heartbreaking letters speak not only to being ripped away from one’s life and love, but also of the different treatments Bill underwent in the asylum’s cruel efforts to “fix” him and of Bill’s continued refusal to admit that loving John was an ailment for which he should be cured.
The letters in the tin box make William realize that he has an opportunity to live his live and find love that Bill never had. It becomes almost a personal mission for William to live his life in a way that honors Bill and his sacrifices.
The book is not all dark and haunting moments, however. While living at the asylum, William meets a local, Colby. Colby is out, proud, a bit flamboyant, living his life to the fullest, never apologizing or for who is. Colby is funny, sweet, and kind. Without detracting from the story at all, he is the ray of sunshine that keeps this book from becoming overly dark. He helps William to become the man he wants to be, comfortable in his own skin, living the life he wants to live.
This book was an incredible journey. I learned things I didn’t really want to know about in my happy ignorance but now I know and I am deeply affected. Fortunately, the book was not as sad or scary as I expected, but I still was profoundly moved by it. Thank you Andrew for giving me this book and thank you Sara for doing this with me as a BR. I would not have had the courage to read this book alone.