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Publisher's Summary

A beautiful, raw and compassionate memoir about identity, love, and understanding. Now a major motion picture starring Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, and Lucas Hedges, directed by Joel Edgerton. “Every sentence of the story will stir your soul” (O Magazine).

The son of a Baptist pastor and deeply embedded in church life in small town Arkansas, as a young man Garrard Conley was terrified and conflicted about his sexuality.

When Garrard was a 19-year-old college student, he was outed to his parents, and was forced to make a life-changing decision: either agree to attend a church-supported conversion therapy program that promised to “cure” him of homosexuality; or risk losing family, friends, and the God he had prayed to every day of his life. Through an institutionalized 12-Step Program heavy on Bible study, he was supposed to emerge heterosexual, ex-gay, cleansed of impure urges and stronger in his faith in God for his brush with sin. Instead, even when faced with a harrowing and brutal journey, Garrard found the strength and understanding to break out in search of his true self and forgiveness. 

By confronting his buried past and the burden of a life lived in shadow, Garrard traces the complex relationships among family, faith, and community. At times heart-breaking, at times triumphant, this memoir is a testament to love that survives despite all odds. 

©2016 Garrard Conley (P)2016 Penguin Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Not What I’d Hoped

The idea behind this memoir is fascinating and stories like these need to be told. Still, I felt this book kept me at arm’s length.

My problem was with Conley’s style of writing. His prose is incredibly flowery and I can’t help but think he got so caught up in literary flourishes, he lost the story’s heart. It never shakes off the vibe of a university creative non-fiction class.

Considering this book is the author’s memoir, I feel like I don’t know him at all. He writes himself as a cipher, without any real depth, instead focusing on his observations of people and items surrounding him. He goes to painstaking length to describe things like fingernails, ceramic pipes, and his mother’s clothing- but doesn’t allow the reader to really see his emotions or who he is. There’s a wall that never comes down.

I’m genuinely sorry I didn’t love this book the way I hoped I would. It’s really all a matter of personal taste, though and I have nothing but respect for what Garrard had to endure and even more for his continuing advocacy. He’s certainly a hero in my book for speaking out against the ugliness of conversion therapy.

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Powerful memoir

This is a beautifully written memoir, powerfully moving, and ably narrated,. Conley's coming of age account has significance for anyone, regardless of sexual orientation. It is about the journey into adulthood, the struggle with religious authority that is based in fear and and rejection, but the quiet and ongoing "victory" that is possible even if painful.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

An honest look at the horrors of gay conversion therapy

As a survivor of the ex-gay conversion movement, this book. Is heartbreaking but very much real. All of the thoughts and feelings expressed by Garrard are real and things I recognize in my own coming of age story.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Eileen
  • CONVERSE, TX, United States
  • 09-01-18

I thought this would be more memoir

I was super excited for this story. I thought there were would be more personal experiences, but it seems to be a repetitive story that doesn't really give you much to work with. Very shallow. You don't get very attached to the writer.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Jeffrey
  • Austin Texas, United States
  • 08-21-18

Heartfelt, Mournful, Powerful

This book may be a rare instance when it might be best to read the epilogue before the rest of the book in order to realize the real emotion behind the body of the work. The author's writing style is very sophisticated, but to a few seems off-putting. Off-putting because it seems to lack the kind of anger that the events warrant to most of us. The epilogue makes it very clear what the writer's real feelings are even if the body of the text does not. This has caused confusion with some reviews of this book.

What is also not realized and confusing to some is the back and forth between periods of time. It seems odd and confusing to some, but in doing so the author is allowing us inside of his mind probably more than we deserve. Remember that this book is written and published about twelve years after the actual events. He admits that he is not even able to write this book for at least ten years as what happened to him was too painful to wish to recall, much less write.

When he finally does write, the text is forensic, incisive, surgical and to the best of his recollection, exacting. But it is not chronological because that is not how it seems to the sufferer of the horrid events which stream through the writer's mind ill-at-ease from one moment to another far removed in time and never in order. Neither should the book read in that manner.

The body of the text if not outright angry is most definitely scathing. Small words and phrases used in retrospect to deride and criticize the many who mindlessly and purposely hurt him and countless others with their phony self-serving pseudo-religious ex-gay rhetoric.

In the end only one person, other than the author himself, survives and in fact flourishes. The author's mother. An angel. A saint. Oddly enough, the father seems to love the son and in fact probably to present day dwells in a pit of horrid guilt that he caused this much harm and terror to his son, whom he truly does love. The words that the father just wants his son even now to be happy and the son's belief in the father's wish seems to ring true. I would wish all involved in that family full peace and happy reconciliation.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Finally!

a genuine review of ex gay brainwashing. Thank you for writing this. I can't wait for the film.

amazing.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Compelling story that got a bit dragged out towards the end

Overall, I think this is an important and powerful story to be told. I’m thankful for Garrard for having the courage to write it. For me, it started to feel like it was going on and on unnecessarily towards the end - I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe just not my preferred writing style so it came off as repetitive or that he just talked about a scene for too long. The narrator was good. I think I would have preferred reading it rather than listening to it, but I still recommend it to everyone!

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Important topic but difficult listen

First off, the topic of this book is important and interesting, and Michael Crouch’s narration was impeccable as usual for him. 5 stars.

I gave the story 3 stars because of the subject matter, and the prose & use of language was excellent...but as an audible book, I found this very difficult to follow and understand, often not sure of the timeframe or even whom the author was referring to. In its format as a memoir, I suppose that’s allowed, but it was hard on me and I think I would’ve enjoyed this more as a regular book.

I hope the upcoming movie is great, I look forward to revisiting the story in a different format.

And all that said, thank you to the author for sharing his story. I hope that some measure of happiness or at least some level of closure resulted.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

little thin...

Listened to this in anticipation of the movie, figuring the books are typically better than the movies. From what I heard, they'll have a lot of filling in to do to make this worth watching. It's an important story told from a singular stream of consciousness point of view, but it feels a little like a college application essay: "Describe an experience that challenged your worldview. How did you respond? What resources did you draw on to maintain your views or how were your perceptions expanded?" I think the performance was partly responsible, but if I'd been actually reading it, the writing itself felt as young and breathlessly earnest as the voice artist. I'm glad this story has been told, and that the author both survived the psychological terrorism that was visited on him and wrote the book... just wanted the story itself to have more (or maybe just better written-?) scenes to support the internal dialogue. There were barely any descriptions of being in the program itself, unless I fell asleep listening to those parts, which I admit is possible. The scenes as read have a crazily flat affect, and the climactic "escape" left me saying- that's.... IT??!
The epilogue gets into the effects of such programs on other survivors, in their own words, and those few paragraphs are more gripping than many of the authors own chapters. It can't have been an easy tale to tell; the book as it's written feels like the author just didn't want to talk about his actual experiences, only his mental & spiritual trauma and willful rejection of the program. The result is strangely disconnecting, considering how barbaric it is that people willingly put their own kids through such programs. Glad I listened but hard put to recommend it- first ever for me: skip the book, see the movie.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great Discovery.

Amazing read. I saw the preview for this movie and seen it was based on a true story. I wanted the in depth details of the book prior to watching the film. It was unexpected but true circumstances back then. Life does get easier for some. Some.