The main character, Gary Gray, is a young, black, obese, closeted-gay, evangelical Christian. The world has already fucked this guy six ways from Sunday. I think that is the beauty of the story; it's in the struggle. Gary wants to live a life for God, but he can't help but go around blowing nameless guys in parks and Waffle House bathrooms. Gary's story is one of how to be anything other than yourself, even before God, is to live a life of complete misery. He gets a wife and child, but never touches his wife, except when she is overly persuasive and pictures that he is being intimate with his old college roommate. That is part one.
Part two deals with Gary faking his death, by throwing his wallet into a burning train that he was on, and heading for the hills--he takes up the new identity of August Valentine. Eventually he lands himself in a relationship with a man in a manner consistent with how many gay men do--at a night club. They live a relatively happy life together, but it eventually fails on all accounts; especially when Gary's (August never had a wife) wife finds out that he is alive and well in another state. Thus begins part three, which happens to include the saddest moment of the story.
Gary promises to get "better" and so attends a pray-away-the-gay camp where hugs are held to a strict time-limit, and it is sanctioned to rat out anyone who shows signs of the dreadful homosexual lifestyle. This is just a thought, but perhaps placing "formerly gay" men into a group and telling them to stop being gay isn't going to help. It is only going to exacerbate the situation; such as Gary observing the physique of his new roommate, and ultimately making a move on the guy. The downside? This guy does not want to be "fixed". He leaves, and the people in charge order everyone to disown him and never think about him again. Well, that ultimately leads to the most depressing part of the story. Does Gary change his ways? Even I don't know.
As a gay man, I can appreciate this story in all its glory. Hannaham has painted a vivid picture of how miserable and frustrating being gay, and coming to terms with it, really is. But he also gives hope and promise. It all comes down to the individual and coming to terms with who he or she truly is, and living that life to its fullest.
Photo via McSweeney's.