Lead Me Not by Ann Gallagher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Warning for homophobia and homophobic language.
When I started into Lead Me Not, I was hesitant. This is not the first LGBT book I have read, but it is the first Christian LGBT book I have read. And when Isaac is first introduced, his thoughts and actions are harsh and homophobic. This was the protagonist we’re supposed to cheer for? Not likely. But then, Isaac slowly began to grow on me. I realized that he was actually in the closet himself, so deep he couldn’t see his way out, couldn’t see much of anything. He was blind.
Isaac’s family and the environment he grew up in are incredibly toxic. Ann Gallagher paints a masterful picture of the way these so-called Christians twist the Scriptures to condemn homosexuality. Isaac’s brother William is especially hateful, while Isaac himself sincerely just wants to help people—although he is very wrong in how he tries to do so. Isaac’s father has already disowned two of his children for not believing exactly as he does. Scenes with Isaac’s family are not easy to read.
The premise of the plot gave me pause as well. Isaac’s twin sister Ruth suggests that they make a documentary to prove that you can choose to be gay—by Isaac “choosing” to be gay, then “choosing” to be straight again. Of course, the problem is that he is not straight and never has been. And never will be.
Then Colton—a bartender at a gay club—saves Isaac from getting beaten in the alley behind the club, beaten by homophobic thugs who probably believe a lot of the same bs Isaac believes. Colton drives him to the hospital and stays with him and drives him home. That a stranger, a gay stranger, would do that for him shakes Isaac’s worldview to its core. Then Isaac finds out that Colton is a Christian and that he volunteers at a local church helping save LGBT teenagers from the streets, and his world tips on its axis again. There is a crack in his closet door, letting in just a bit of light.
It’s not easy of course. While Isaac “lives the gay lifestyle” for the documentary, telling everyone around him that he is gay, he still very much believes that he is not. The closet door might be ajar, but he is still huddled inside, trying to hide from the light. This changes slowly, but he fights it every step of the way.
Despite the harsh language and rhetoric, this really is a very uplifting book. Isaac’s family is shown clearly to be wrong. There is no insistence on forgiving someone like that either. Sometimes the best thing to do is to put distance between yourself and that toxic relationship. I’m used to romance novels being rather shallow in theme and content, but this one surprised me. I would highly recommend it, and I will likely read it again.
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