Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Friday, November 20, 2009

Upon reading "No Going Back" by Jonathan Langford


I am not comfortable with the topic of homosexuality, especially as it is presented in our culture today by gay rights groups. Therefore, No Going Back is meant for a reader such as I. It presents the Church's stand in an open way without preachiness or prejudice. It also presents the general stance of everyone else, also without preachiness or prejudice. And it presents a 15- year-old-boy named Paul, a good Mormon boy like any of our kids or our neighbors' kids, who realizes he is gay. The book opens with him sharing the information with his best friend, Chad.

The rest of the novel involves the people around Paul and Chad--their families, Chad's friends, the Gay-Straight Alliance group at school, the bishop. There are many characters and several points of view, which Langford skillfully weaves in and out around this one central issue of Paul's same-gender attraction. The character development is incredible. Read it if only to see the artistry with which Langford creates his cast of players. Even minor characters come to life on the page.

I found No Going Back to be a deeply spiritual, faith-affirming story that is neither contentious nor agenda-driven. In fact, it's a refreshingly honest look at all sides of this issue. Paul's dilemma and his subsequent pondering of what this means for his life now and in the future touched my heart and soul. Think of it. What happens when a young Mormon teen, one who has planned his entire life to serve a mission, to marry and have children, to be an active, committed member of the Church, comes of age and discovers that he likes boys the way he should like girls? Paul must decide what to do, and the first person he turns to for counsel is his bishop. Still, the final decision must be Paul's. Will he follow the advice of his well-meaning friends at GSA, or will he stay true to his covenants and follow his bishop's wise counsel?

This isn't a topic I have discussed much with my sons in their growing up years. Why would I? I'm a Mormon mom, and I didn't suppose it would ever be an issue. My seventeen-year-old son came into the room while I was reading, and we had a bit of a strange dialogue.

I said, "Maybe you should read this book. It's about a Mormon young man who realizes he's gay. Maybe you know boys like this." (I just wanted to see what he would say.)

His response shocked me. He said, "I wouldn't want to read it, because then I might start thinking I was gay."

I said, "You're not gay!" (I know this because he really, really likes girls.)

He said, "I know." Then he said, "A kid at school sent out two texts last week. The first one went: This is really hard for me..... The second one went: ....I'm a homo." (And yes, this boy is an active Mormon.)

Our kids today hear about this topic probably a lot more than we do. Some of them may be afraid they are gay. Especially considering that sexual confusion is typical during the adolescent years, with same-sex crushes being a common occurrence. Reading this novel can educate parents and teens in a positive way, through the gospel viewpoint of same-gender attraction and morality, rather than through the common viewpoint of "Do whatever makes you feel good."

No Going Back is a fast read, even quite funny in places. I could hardly put it down. It is richly layered and complex, thought-provoking and heart-wrenching, a finely written tale of depth and meaning. I highly recommend it, and I look forward to more realistic fiction from Jonathan Langford.

Purchase your copy of this excellent novel from Amazon, the BYU Bookstore, or from the publisher's website www.zarahemlabooks.com.

10 comments:

  1. I'll tweet this link for you Karen-good review.

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  2. I'm not sure what this means David...I'm clueless about twitter, but thank you.

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  3. I posted on twitter that you had this review up. So of the 62-odd people that follow me there(always more on twitter than Blogs)and whomever notices my key-words might choose to come and read your review.

    Its hard to tell sometimes about traffic though. I have been getting a lot more traffic to my blog lately but comments are staying about the same-but exposure is exposure.

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  4. Nicely done Karen. I'm glad to know the perspective this book took--a much kinder approach than I would have thought.

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  5. Hi Karen,
    Fantastic review!!! Youbrought tears to my eyes. When Chris sent me a news blurb about No Going Back, I had to review it and absolutely loved it!! Our 24 year old son has had issues with same-sex attraction, but has turned his life around, realizing he's not really gay, as he's now interested in a young lady in his branch. I loaned my copy to our bishop, who skimmed it, but his wife did read it. Every LDS adult should read this book.

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  6. Karen,
    By the way, I love the looks of your blog!!! The scenery with the giraffe is amazing. I wear Giraffe Wraps on my legs with my Lymphedema, caused by my Lymphoma and these Wraps cost $1000!!!! Specially made just for my legs!!! LOL

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  7. Hi Teri, thank you! I feel the same as you, that every LDS adult should read it, especially priesthood leaders. I liked it much much more than I thought I would, and I wanted to spread the word because I think it is an important book. I think Jonathan has done a great work.

    Funny about the giraffe wraps! Do you feel taller when you wear them lol?

    Kate, I'm still not sure I would recommend you read it however, because your sons are so young. I don't think I could have handled it when I was in that stage of life.

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  8. Excellent review, Karen. I look forward to reading this book.

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  9. Guys I hate to ruin a feel good party, but if a young man feels he's gay, then he's gay. If he was truly straight, the thought of gay sex would be absolutely repulsive. The church would do well to realize this and treat it's gay congregation with the dignity and respect they deserve.

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