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We Contain Multitudes

Narrated by: Matthew Gouveia, Tony Kim
Length: 9 hrs and 15 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (59 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe meets I'll Give You the Sun in an exhilarating and emotional novel about the growing relationship between two teen boys, told through the letters they write to one another. 

Jonathan Hopkirk and Adam "Kurl" Kurlansky are partnered in English class, writing letters to one another in a weekly pen-pal assignment. With each letter, the two begin to develop a friendship that eventually grows into love. But with homophobia, bullying, and devastating family secrets, Jonathan and Kurl struggle to overcome their conflicts and hold onto their relationship...and each other. 

This rare and special novel celebrates love and life with engaging characters and stunning language, making it perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson, Nina LaCour, and David Levithan.

©2019 Sarah Henstra (P)2019 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"...[Hentra's] skill lies in painstakingly depicting each boy's slow move toward vulnerability until a smoldering, secret romance begins. This exploration of self and sexuality is sure to be quickly embraced by fans of Love, Simon, They Both Die in the End and The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue." (Shelf Awareness)

"This is an absolutely extraordinary work of fiction that proves the epistolary novel is an art form. Kurl and Jo are characters to die for, emotionally compelling and empathetic. Their quotidian lives are riveting and their story unforgettable...not to be missed." (Booklist, starred review)

"A love story, a therapy session, a reason to read Whitman - the sweetness of unexpected amour is here, as is the saline of sadness.... Your reason to root for love - and the power of the pen." (Kirkus, starred review)

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A lot to like here, but...

The format of the story, ie: letters, really dilutes the story overall. Every letter, or most, becomes more about moving the plot forward than being a genuine heart-felt moment of revelation or discovery.

The writing is at times very beautiful, and the characters are wonderfully fleshed out (thanks to excellent narrators), but they never really jumped off the page for me and I think that is because of the way Henstra chose to tell this particular story. There have been a great many letters saved from history between lovers that tell interesting stories. I suspect those letters fascinate us not because their writers told us the plot, but showed us something about humanity, emotions like love and desire. Even for a YA title, the letters never get above luke-warm.

There is something that works here, particularly Kurl's journey of discovery, but there's also a lot missing here.

And, one of my biggest complaints in general about titles like this is wondering why women(and straight men) are telling the stories of gay men and boys. Perhaps that is the ingredient missing. I'm not sure. Nothing against Sarah Henstra, but I wish more gay writers would tell their stories. Authenticity matters. So does representation.

Still, overall, WCM has it's moments even if those moments never really shine as bright or reach their full potential due to the constraints of the format.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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wonderful

such beautiful story, an emotional rollercoaster had my heartstrings tugging at every letter all the way through the book.

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Lovely, passionate epistolary novel...but

I'm a sucker for happy stories. I'm a sucker for weird gay kids because I was one.
This story can be compared to Call Me By Your Name in the emotional heat that it produces. The pivoting on Walt Whitman renewed my interest in the poet.

Here's the "but"
The quiet angry abused older writer (Curly?) metamorphised too rapidly, too completely, too transformatively (if that's not redundant). While still be regularly abused he took on superhero status. And what person writes a letter to the person they had sex with describing (blow by blow, figuratively speaking only) what happened. It's a contorted use of the epistolary style to provide narrative. And what teacher gives this kind of assignment that has no adult review to help facilitate growth? And what assertive, openly gay, intelligent, precociously insightful 10th grader allows himself to be mercilessly bullied without getting the support of his supportive dad, his teachers and other adults in the environment? This takes place in 2016. I was a teacher in high school in Florida prior to this time (I've since retired). This would not have gone unnoticed by the professional staff in Florida, let alone urban Minneapolis.

Yes, I did suspend belief. Yes, I would read other books she wrote.

To the person who wrote that he can't understand women and straight men writing gay literature, I've asked myself the same question so I thought about it. I'm not sure that's not a form of homophobia, For example Yaoi is a genre of fictional media originating in Japan that features homoerotic relationships between male characters. Writers aren't always writing novels that are cloaked autobiographies or we'd have few horror or mass murder novels.

This book was a journey or two journeys for two complex, loner youths. I cried and I was in the characters' corners cheering them on. OK, I just changed my score on the story from 3 to 4.

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Simply beautiful

I deliberately slowed my reading. Postponing for as long as I could. Coming to the end. If you loved Dante and Aristotle Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Then this book is for you.

Smart. Moving. Deeply Romantic. It awakened the poet I never knew I had in me. A true masterpiece of raw affection. And how love can hurt and move mountains at the same time.


It is a novel every young gay man should read at least once. And every not so young should read until his heart beats like that of a teenager who just discovered love for the first time.

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very well written and performed

This book was written so eloquently. I've been voraciously going through most of this genre of literature and I found this to be one of the better written books. The prose and voice of the author are exquisite... And the voice-over actors only added to listening experience. Oftentimes, audiobooks tend to have good stories or good performers, but usually neither at the same time. This was one of those rare exceptions. I felt a genuine loss when it ended because I grew so attached to these characters. Definitely worth listening to!

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a bit of multitudes

loved every minute of it can't wait to re listen. loved the narration of it

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Tears....

This story brought so many emotions out of me. Yes tho it’s an interaction are by letters, I felt that prospective brought out the emotions more and have the reader more insight from each characters perspective.

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Beautifully Written and Performed

I loved this book. It was a love story of our time. It’s poetic, heartbreaking, and refreshing. The performance by both the actors made me believe the characters even more.

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Great all around

The book reminds me a bit of the perks of being a wall flower.

I appreciate that there's 2 narrators. 1 for each character's point of view and thus accordingly their letters.

The story is romantic, and made me eager and emotional.

These letters seem personal, intimate, as if I'd discovered them from looking ago and was reading about someone's personal life. something precious to be treasured and kept safe, like Ann Frank's Diary except thankfully it's fictional.

The story is poetic, intellectual, romantic, rejuvenating for the soul. I'm in love with it, and I'm going to listen to it again and again. listening to these character's tell their stories, as if I'll get some additional insight on their lives through their voices.