Author: Lindsey Kay
Publisher: Self published through Cafepress
Dates Published: 2008
A novel about homosexuality and the church
Honest conversation begins when a gay couple attends a mainline protestant church in a close community. The pastoral team has to choose where their loyalties lie: with the elders who don’t want the gay couple to become members, with their own desire to be welcoming to all, or with God’s call to mission? Sometimes mission leads you to places you otherwise would never go.
Throughout the story there are moments of pain and moments of light as Zoe Baker, associate pastor of the Church of Living Blood, learns that sometimes when one seeks to redeem the world the person who needs the most redeeming is ones’s self.
Self described as ‘an author who lives with her husband and two kids in lovely rural Indiana’, Lindsey Kay is the webmistress of Emphatic Asterisk, a blog I have been reading diligently for around nine months. When she announced she had written a book about homosexuality and the church I was not only excited about supporting a person who’s opinions I care about, but I was also interested in the content of the book itself. Homosexuality and religion are sensitive issues with seemingly explosive results whenever mixed together (especially during the Proposition 8 campaign). To tackle such a controversial and polarising subject seemed like a challenging read and must have been difficult to write, given the adverse reactions many would have.
I was a little worried about the prospect of reviewing the work of someone I ‘know’ (in an internet sense). Reviews usually have the luxury of mercilessly splicing books by some stranger without ever having to deal with the repercussions of their harsh opinions. But not this time. A nagging thought occured to me ‘What if this book, for all its good intentions and intelligent theorizing, just plainly sucks arse? What will I do? What will I say?’ Thankfully, I didn’t have to face this horrifying conundrum – because it didn’t suck arse.
At its roots ‘honest conversation’, is the story of two gay men who try to join a church, told through the eyes of Zoe Baker (part of the church’s pastoral team). The story straddles huge ideological rifts amongst the christian community.
This is not as polished or atmospherically devoted as a professionally published novel. There are typos, weird sections where numbers pop up for some reason, sometimes sentence structure is a little clumsy and some scenes don’t hold up as well as others (a conversation between Zoe and a young church goer called Jason comes to mind). However, Lindsey has a knack of keeping conversational scenes entertaining and the plot is controlled tightly. The majority of scenes stay away from relying on ‘stock characters’ that often appear and cliches of the different groups depicted. Fiction is about manipulation and we are indeed being manipulated here; but it is done in a skillful and charming manor. Lindsey’s writing style is easy, natural and pleasant to read. By the last third of the book I was ‘hooked in’ and thinking to myself ‘I wonder what’s going to happen’ whenever I was pulled away from its pages.
As explained in the short intro, Lindsey is writing about subjects she is experienced with and it definitely shows. What saves ‘honest conversation’ from being just a fictionalised essay is the character Zoe, who seems real and lively. Her own struggles with sexual abuse were handled eloquently and somehow managed to avoid descending into a melodrama-fest. Surprisingly, this storyline wove believably and vitally into the fabric of the fiction. Lindsey’s gift for sincere and eloquent words culminate during the final scene.
One interesting aspect I faced was reading inside the mind of a religious character. Being an atheist, I had no idea that the relationship between God and the believer was so complex and tumultuous (in modern fiction religious characters are usually shunted to the ‘thinly veiled messiah’ character, the ‘evil, greedy, possibly lecherous priest’ or ‘the random guy that gets killed early in the expedition’ stereotype).
The cover design is tasteful and relevant. It could have been foppish and cliched (I’m imagining a misted image of a sunset with two people holding hands sorrowfully), yet avoided this skillfully.
‘honest conversation’ needs to be posted to every church and studied thoroughly by its patrons. It is hard to emphasise how important this work could be for Christians and the gay communities alike. ‘honest conversation’ is a small, but sure voice of reason amongst the maelstrom of bickering, hatred and misunderstanding from both sides of this extremely volatile issue. This book has a few tests to go – I’m going to pass it on to a Pastor, my gay sister and my religious boyfriend. It will be interesting to see their reactions to the content. Yet, regardless of whether the reader agrees or disagrees with Lindsey’s point of view, it seems important that people at least experience her voice and reasoning.
♥♥♥♥ – 4/5
You can purchase ‘honest conversation’ from Cafepress by clicking here
Here There Be Words– Lindsey’s official website: fiction, blogging and news.
Emphatic Asterisk– Lindsey’s blog about church, tolerance and measured thinking.