Isaac Morris has devoted his life to preaching against the sin of homosexuality. But when his sister proposes a documentary to demonstrate once and for all that it’s a choice—with Isaac choosing to be gay as proof—he balks. Until he learns his nephew is headed down that perverted path. Isaac will do anything to convince the teenager he can choose to be straight . . . including his sister’s film.
When Isaac’s first foray into the gay lifestyle ends with a homophobic beating, he’s saved and cared for by Colton Roberts, a gentle, compassionate bartender with a cross around his neck. Colton challenges every one of Isaac’s deeply held beliefs about gay men. He was kicked out by homophobic parents, saved from the streets by a kind pastor, and is now a devout Christian. Colton’s sexuality has cost him dearly, but it also brought him to God.
As the two grow closer, everything Isaac knows about homosexuality, his faith, and himself is called into question. And if he’s been wrong all along, what does that mean for his ministry, his soul, his struggling nephew—and the man he never meant to love?
This was one of those books that made me have to look past the surface. To really grasp this book, you’d probably need to understand just what it is like to live under fundamentalist doctrine from early childhood. If you haven’t experienced this yourself, unless you’ve done some research on the subject, you might find the main characters on the unbelievable side and asking yourself things such as “How could he NOT know?”, “How could he believe in God after all that?” and even, “Surely no one who really loves their kid would do THAT”.
The answer lies in the very nature of belonging to such a fundamentalist faith: God’s word is absolute and literal. The pastor is inspired by God to share His Word and the Church to provide Fellowship, it’s members to help each other live as Christlike as possible according to the pastor’s, and their sect’s, literal interpretation of the version of the Bible they use. So the world really WAS made in 7 days, Adam was actually crafted from dirt, and so on. There is a literal Hell with a very real Fallen angel who whispers sin in your ear and into your heart. The English language version of the Bible used uses wording that all too easily makes being LGBT a sin, and since they take THAT version literally, because God Himself moved the translators t choose THOSE words, then it follows that there can be no mistake: being gay is a sin. Imagine believing all that wholeheartedly, and then believing also the passage about bearing witness so that others may be saved. Imagine sex being a sacred thing only between man and wife and anything else relating to it, including education, to be a sin. THIS is the world that Isaac grew up in. A world so tightly regulated by “Biblical principles” (I place this in quotes as they are of course merely his sect’s interpretations of the Bible) that your every human desire other than glorification of God as dictated, your every literal desire, was understood to be the devil tempting you.
Want a big screen TV with all the latest features because you saw one at Bob’s house? Oh, no, that’s envy! You only want it because he has it! Donate instead to the youth group. You find yourself thinking Jake is attractive? That’s lust. Tamp it down, everyone feels that, the devil does it to tempt you. So it was for Isaac, who believed his father’s rhetoric from the pulpit that the devil sent lust at mankind and humans chose to accept that lust and commit homosexual acts. And of course, they had to be degenerate acts. Isaac was so clueless that he didn’t realise that suppressed attraction he felt towards guys and that he couldn’t kindle with his ex wife, were biological and that he was feeling things hetero men did not.
LA Witt, writing as Ann Gallagher, fearlessly treads right into the heart of the intolerance for sin that lies at the heart of story. She does so sympathetically. I was ready to to think that Isaac was a right tosser for agreeing with his shallow sister and deciding to make the documentary. But when you read his confusion, his genuine distress as he opens himself up and goes where he feels God is truly leading him, only to discover he has arrived in a completely different place than he’d thought to find, it was impossible to hate him. He’s a victim who became a victimiser, and then discovers the truth and hates a part of himself for it. His brother’s conflict over his own son is at first one that made me want to punch the man int he face, until you see his own agony over what he believes is truly a fight for his son’s immortal soul, and the well being of his other children.
Colton’s experience at coming out and being rejected but finding faith thanks to a kindly pastor and his wife provides a counterpoint to all of that. It is also what unwittingly sends Isaac further into a spiral of confusing and despair, then later to find peace with the dichotomy. Isaac’s meeting with Colton is the stone in the pond, with ripples that keep widening until finally reaching towards shore. in the end, Isaac and Colton not only get their HEA, but so do others, and not all of them are romantic. This is not an easy read, but it is one that looks at current issues and dissects them neatly. My only quibbles are that Isaac is bit one dimensional, as is his family. He seems to only exist as a crisis on legs and his own apparent innate lack of curiosity had me baffled. I know the whole story revolves around his crisis but it’d be nice if we got to see bit more of him and his family in unrelated scenes, to help round them all out a bit better. The ending felt a bit rushed as well. The story carefully lays the foundation then time skips and tells us what happened, then time skips again to an epilogue whose very ending also seemed abrupt. Still, a good solid, if often uncomfortable, read that nonetheless finished in a shower of rainbow sparkles.