I almost didn’t read this book. The title was off putting. It sounded to my prim ears a tad self inflicted, self indulgent.
But what did I know. it is a quote from a Welsh poet Waldo Williams and not as I thought a life style choice… The trials of being homosexual. It is about forgiveness and the lengths needed in order to forgive injustice. Rather than chose bitterness one must do what it takes even crawl through thorns.An image of the First World War comes to mind. Crawling through barbed wire.
I understand the title of this book now and my prejudice and misunderstanding
It was uncomfortable reading too, at first, for a convent girl with a conventional, sheltered upbringing.
Set in Barmouth, a town I have visited most of my life and now live close enough to visit daily should I chose. The experiences of a boy, pretty much the same age, growing up with the realisation of difference was uncomfortable reading.
Growing up a homosexual, with the guilt that engendered with trysts and casual sex hard to reconcile with a ‘normal’ childhood. Perhaps there is a gender difference, too. Sex simply wasn’t on the agenda in the all female household I grew up in.
Memory can be a false friend, but despite being labelled as from a broken home we did well enough. What constitutes an idyllic childhood anyway? Day trips to Barmouth lying on the beach with my sisters in thick jumpers breaking our teeth on sticks of rock from the rock shop. My mother was preparing us for the first of several road trips to the south of France and so the four or five hours drive to and from Wolverhampton, were about right.
I stuck with the book and glad I did. Mostly an absorbing read with some very moving and lovely writing, it is a coming of age story, the life of John Idris Jones, who happens to have been born a homosexual. Coming to terms with what that means in his community and the wider community makes a compelling read, as he and the wider world find acceptance, including aversion therapy by electric shock treatment as a cure and the dawn of AIDS and that devastation, written from the perspective of a gay man in San Francisco.
There are powerful recommendations to live by to take from the book:
‘kindnesses are for passing on’, or if of religious bent, ‘God finds us where we are, and ‘The journey is home’, which I take to mean the journey of life is your life, not a stepping stone.
The eulogy for his dead friend is testament to both hero and friend.
Of how many people can it be said we are better people for having known them?
It shows a closeness born of true friendship that not everyone is capable of.