I was browsing Amazon for Alan Hollinghurst’s novels when this popped up as suggested reading. I read the synopsis and thought that it’s pretty much on par with the type of books I’ve been reading lately. Though, if I’m being perfectly honest, I’ve been all over the place with my choices as of late.
In My Own Words
This is a story based on the author’s experiences from his travels in Africa. A continent that has some countries with some pretty strict laws against homosexuality. To be honest, and even before I even opened the book, I was already anxious. I think I know what I was getting into from the get go. I don’t know how else this could end well knowing that Andrew and Thomas’ relationship would lead to one of them in prison, if not, both. But I persevered, after all, we don’t learn anything from the sidelines or in our comfort zones.
There is an underlying almost suspenseful tone to this book. Not in the way that makes one feel like a serial killer is on the lose. But the danger is right around the corner, regardless. It is in the way that constantly made me anxious for them, and in the way that I was on alert for some possible snitch that would expose their covert meetings. The excitement of the burgeoning relationship only added to the feeling of euphoric madness. And while this book’s primary focus is their trials and tribulations that came after their exposure, I think Andrew’s life in The Gambia is a great education into a world that maybe us westerners couldn’t possibly conceive. A world where having multiple wives is okay, but loving one person of the same sex isn’t. Though, if I’m being honest, there is probably a corner of the western world where such belief and practice still exist.
I’m always in awe of missionaries and volunteers who would put their lives in the front lines. When they know that being in dangerous countries could mean peril at every turn. I felt the same way for Andrew. He researched The Gambia before he volunteered. He knew that as a gay man, he has anticipated the feeling of isolation not only for the literal distance from his family and friends but for being a person whose very identity is considered an “abnormality” and therefore not accepted. I supposed he didn’t anticipate to fall in love, however.
I wish I can tell you that this has a happy ending. Unfortunately, it does not. It will, however, strengthen your desire to accept more. To love more, to be kind. And to be thankful that you’re not in a situation where your life and freedom do not hang in the balance for being with the person that you love. It also makes me realize more and more that governing a country based on religion only helps a few, and that it doesn’t serve its purpose. It is more destructive than not. This couldn’t be truer with the state of our politics nowadays.