Monday, October 18, 2010

The Perfect Family by Kathryn Shay

"When we were little Mom read a book aloud to us. In it kids could be who they are. William could have a doll and you didn't have to marry a prince." from Free to Be You and Me, Jamie Davidson

As I write this review, we’ve just ended our annual celebration of  National Coming Out Day.  Unfortunately, we are also mourning the deaths of several gay teens who felt that being gay is harder than staying alive.

Little did I know as I was searching for the next good read, that I would find a book that seemed to be written for this particular moment in time. It is called The Perfect Family(Bold Stroke Books, 2010) and the author’s name is Kathryn Shay.

In the world of stressors, coming out to family and friends is monumental. If you've gone through it, it is one of the hardest things ever. Add to that the difficulties facing young people who are trying to find their place in the world, especially in a high school setting, and you have all the ingredients for something to go awry.

When you start to read The Perfect Family, you are introduced to a family whose life seems to be almost picture perfect. They are just ending a vacation together, and upon their return, they'll resume their lives as usual. Every member of this tightly knit group not only care for each other, but trust each other completely. There are no secrets, or at least everyone thinks that.

Jamie, the youngest son is extremely popular at school, and has lots of friends.  He finds himself attracted to other boys, and wants to believe it is ok. Although he wants to share this with others, he's not sure how.

Luke Crane is a jock, and plays on the football team with Jamie's brother Brian. Nothing about him says gay, but after a few times in each other’s presence, Luke indicates to Jamie that “we have more in common than you think.”  I mean, this was a daydream when I was in high school. Jamie has clearly found his opportunity to be who he is.

Love follows quickly, and the boys decide to go on a date. Because of the family's belief in telling the truth, when asked who Jamie is going on a date with, he tells his mother about Luke. Maggie, his mother, tells the father, but knows his religious beliefs will be in conflict with his son sexuality. Jamie eventually tells his brother, and although the news that he is gay is unexpected,, Brian is angry at him for not telling him first. And so it goes.

Kathy Shay takes her story and develops it smartly, building the tension, but never to the point of overload. This is Jamie’s story, to be sure, but this is also the story of a family in turmoil. Each member has issues of their own to reconcile, and although the process is painful and slow, the outcome, we hope, will be good. The story also depicts the intolerance and blindness created by religious dogma, the loss of friendship, and the way families can be torn apart by a misunderstanding. It's a full bag.

In talking with the author, I was told about the genesis of this book. Although it is a work of fiction, she has a gay son who came out to her in much the same way Jamie does. In writing this novel, Karthryn Shay not only pays tribute to the power of love and understanding we’d like to think everyone possesses, but to the importance of being yourself, regardless of the pressure to conform. I thank her for writing this book, as I know it will help change the way people feel.

You owe it to yourself to read this book, for its message is very powerful. If you know a parent, friend or a teen who is struggling with this issue, recommend or give this book to them.

Listen to my chat with Kathryn Shay by going to

Next up I will be reviewing Grant Wood by R. Tripp Evans. I will be chatting with him as well, so check for details.

Until next time-take a cue from the Gay Book Guy, and read a book then pass it on.

Robert Jaquay,

No comments:

Post a Comment