Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Conley, Garrard (Boy Erased: A Memoir)

This book was such a slog for me that I finished it on the way to work, the morning of book club. I waited until the very last second, obviously.

It's not that the subject matter isn't fascinating and horrific. The ex-gay movement was a special torture device for those unlucky enough to have lived through their workshops and events. For that alone, it's worth reading... a bit of it. You certainly get the flavor after 20 or so pages. The remaining 320 pages? They had little to no impact on me. I've been struggling to figure out why.

I believe what it boils down to is, first, his lack of a consistent internal narrative. He'll tell us that his parents made him come home from college on the weekends after he was out-ed. A few pages later he'll say that he and his college pals had nothing to do tomorrow (Saturday) morning so they could hang out all night. Eh? That's only one example, and it's a small one, but these built up over time and I ended up losing faith in what he was telling us. I'm certain memoirs are difficult - that there is much that you recall but can't place in the correct context. All the same, it's certainly possible to fit all of that into a consistent framework so that the reader is not confused by what's happening and why.

And second, I had great difficulty with his leaps of logic. In particular, when he's describing the most startling events, he muddles the narrative so that it's difficult to tell what piece of it he's describing. Especially during the rape - which I do understand must be so hard to recall and write about - he starts talking about pedophilia between his attacker and another victim. Pedophilia between a 14-year-old and an 18-year-old? That's not even close to fitting the standard definition. Regardless, it threw me out of the description of the event, and I really wondered if he did that on purpose.

I do wish the epilogue had been a book in and of itself. Tell me more about your years since this abortive therapy, your interactions with your family, and especially how you lost your faith!

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