“” by Cheryl Moss Tyler
I’m writing a blurb on this novel not because it’s got terrific writing, but because the story is one I’ve wanted to read—or at least see available—for a long time. I’ve often thought about the moral dilemma it presents and how various parties would react.
One of the protagonists, Alex Marshall, is a gay man dying of AIDS in 1994. In the 1980s, as a young man, he ran away from home and his community of fundamentalist Christians in Hallton, Wisconsin because he couldn’t face them and the truth about himself. After a period of wildness, he settles down with his partner, Scott, and becomes a lawyer who is active in the gay community. Other than at his father’s funeral, he hasn’t seen his family members since he left for Atlanta.
Annie Whitley, another of the book’s protagonists, is Alex’s sister. She’s shocked when he calls her out of the blue, and asks her to care for him as he is dying of AIDS. Her church and community hold a stance of keeping away from bad influences—and they regard Alex as just that. Yet, Annie had always loved her brother and believes that a Christian should have unconditional love for others. With this in mind, her husband encourages her to go care for Alex.
The novel details Annie’s discomfort in living with a gay couple and the gay couple’s discomfort in living with someone who judges them as sinners bound for hell. Both parties soon recognize how important they are to one another, how much they love one another. With this, Annie decides to bring both Scott and Alex back to Hallton. The community squares off—those who oppose this, believing the devil is taking over Annie’s goodness, and those who are there to support Annie, remembering how they loved Alex when he was young. And, of course, other secrets of the town’s most upstanding members start to come out.
So, this is a good story about opposing values and how people can accept one another without necessarily condoning one another’s behavior. (FYI—there’s nothing in here that’s beyond a PG-13 rating. Very mild stuff, intended for conservative Christians.) The one problem I had with the novel is that, frequently, the characters talked as though they were reading paragraphs from an essay. That is, they were just mouthpieces for the two philosophical points of view, and didn’t sound like real people. Overall, though, it’s worth reading as it deals with the basic Christian tenets of reconciliation and forgiveness.