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The View From A Rusty Train Car Paperback – July 25, 2012
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The first line of the blurb is one of my favorite lines of the book. “No one talks about what happens when you fall in love with the boy next door — not when you’re the boy living beside the boy next door.” That line, and the other lines that go with it in the book are unfortunately still a truthism in the majority of the United States, even in 2014. Parents really aren’t prepared for their son to come home and introduce them to the “man” they are in love with.
The book is written as a series of flashbacks. It begins with Jared speaking in front of a group of people, although we don’t find out who they are until the last chapter of the book. Jared is recounting the story of Luke and their complicated on again / off again relationship which is caused by society’s lack of acceptance of the love of two men.
In the book, Jared and Luke meet the day Jared and his family move into their new house in 1987. They are instantly inseparable. They go on to share everything over the next few years, including their first kiss in the confines of a rusty old train car in a junkyard behind their homes. They figure they are safe there, away from prying eyes.
Unfortunately someone sees them near the end of high school and their lives are forever changed. Luke’s mother deals with it in the worst way possible, placing Luke in forced conversion therapy. Jared has no idea where Luke is gone. Nor does anyone else. There begins a series of miscommunications, homophobia, and separation.
These two characters go through a lot in the book. Sickness, war, college, even falling in love with other people, but they still first and foremost love each other, even when they aren’t communicating. There is a happy ending of sorts and reconciliations, but there is also some pretty hefty sadness.
I’m not going to say much else, because I don’t want to do any further spoilers. If you’re looking for one of those sex on every other page romance novels, this isn’t it, because it doesn’t have any sex scenes. In fact, I’m not sure this book qualifies as a romance novel. In my opinion it is more of a tragedy, but a tragedy you need to read. The subject matter is pulled from the headlines over the last 20 years and even today. If you are a gay man, or a friend or family member of a gay man, you should read the book. Just this week, the U.N. Committee Against Torture questioned U.S. officials about conversion therapy still being legal in 48 states. Who Jared is speaking to is revealed at the end of the book and it is as relevant today as it was when the book was written two year ago.
I very highly recommend the book. The characters, both main and supporting, and the story are very well written. The story instills true emotions of happiness, joy, anger, sadness and acceptance as you’re reading the book. I finished reading it last night, but this morning I’m still heavily in book hangover status from this one. I’ve already added this book to my must re-read list.
Take my advice, consider a break from the light fluff pieces and read Mr. Arens’ book. You won’t be sorry!
RATING: 5 Stars (Originally Reviewed for Love Bytes Same Sex Romance Reviews)
I loved this 59 chapter book. It took me on an emotional rollercoaster with the ups and downs, highs and lows, heartache, devotion, and secrets that happened during Jared and Luke's relationship. It was sweet how the story started off with them as kids; Jared's family had just moved to the neighborhood. By the way Luke was very protective of him, I could sense that he liked Jared in a romantic sense, even though they called themselves "best friends." The setting was through the 1990′s.
My favorite lines: 1) "One would think I'd be used to it, but it was disconcerting not knowing who was a friend or foe." 2) "He's not a husband. He's a roommate." 3) "Loving him wasn't difficult. It was trying to create a life together that proved complicated."
It broke my heart that their parents didn't approve. As teenagers, they tried to hide their romance. Out of depression and trying to fit in with the norm, they avoided each other for a while. Luke even decided to date girls from their school, crushing Jared even more. I was disgusted with their parents' behavior, with how they attempted to change their sons.
You can't help who you love. I don't understand why some people think being gay is wrong or shameful. Love isn't wrong. Who cares if it's between two men, two women instead of a man and a woman. They aren't hurting anyone. They just want to live their lives in peace and have a choice to marry, like straight couples. It boggles my mind that some people are so against it. I hate the way minorities are mistreated in this world...maybe that's why I sympathized so much with this book.
The entire time I read, I thought of Jared as Carrie and Luke as Mr. Big. No matter how many times Luke broke his heart due to his confusion and self-denial, Jared would come back for more once Luke brought on the charm. It was sad when Luke's mom sent him to one of those camps that deprogram gay males. No wonder Luke had issues-he was away for a year, never even got a chance to say goodbye.
I shed a tear of joy when Jared went to college in Seattle where he found Derek with the help of his friends. Finally, he was accepted and treated with respect.
I don't know, I guess this section of the book touched me because I thought of all those bullied kids/teens. Since they have no one to turn to, they commit suicide. I wish they could hold on a little longer because things eventually get better. And this scene was proof of that.
It threw me for a loop who Luke ended up marrying. I thought it was very disrespectful to Jared and his family. I understood how that was the last straw for Jared. I liked that their classmate Phillip was the one who figured out their secret in high school ( he was another gay teen who hid in the closet because of fear). He had talked to Luke, convincing him to spend prom night with Jared. Then Phillip saw Jared on college campus, convincing him to talk to Luke again.
The author had an amazing talent with dialogue. The conversations intertwined with body language helped make all the scenes stand out. I loved all the arguments, self-discoveries, heart to heart talks; the dialogue was very realistic.
My favorite scenes: 1) prom night 2) when Jared tried to stop the wedding 3) the first time Luke gave Jared the nickname "Jed" 4) when Luke bought the train car for the memories 5) when everything came to light between Jared and his sister 6) the ending (I cried during this part; it was very touching).
I RECOMMEND this book to read.