book reviews, LDS

Repost: my review of Carol Lynn Pearson’s Goodbye, I Love You…

Here’s another reposted Epinions review from May 2008 that I’m trying to save from obscurity. I’m posting it as/is.

You never know what will happen in a relationship, even when it seems to be made in heaven… In her 1986 book Goodbye, I Love YouCarol Lynn Pearson explains what it was like for her to be Mormon and married to a gay man.

When she met her husband, Gerald Pearson, for the first time, Carol Lynn Pearson thought he “shone”. In warm, glowing terms, Pearson describes the man whose charisma had captivated her at a party she attended back in the spring of 1965. Gerald had been telling a funny story about his days as an Army private, posted at Fort Ord. Carol Lynn Pearson enjoyed the story, and yet she was horrified that the Army had deigned to turn this gentle soul into a killer. Later, Carol Lynn had a conversation with Gerald and discovered that he’d just returned from a two year LDS church mission in Australia and was preparing to finish his college education at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah. Pearson had already earned two degrees at BYU, both in drama. The two had a lot in common besides theatre and religion. As good Mormons, they also felt the pressure to be married, especially since neither of them was getting any younger. They became friends and started dating.

Gerald continued to impress Carol Lynn with his sense of fun, creativity, and sensitivity. She fell in love with him. He seemed to return her affections. One night, they went on a date to the movies and Gerald’s roommate, Paul, drove. Carol Lynn thought they were going to double date, but Paul never did pick up a female companion. Gerald sat between Paul and Carol Lynn and seemed to enjoy the film. Paul pouted. Gerald told Carol Lynn that he wished they would fall in love and have many children. Not long after that, Gerald proposed marriage. A couple of months after Carol Lynn accepted Gerald’s marriage proposal, he revealed that he’d had relationships with other men. In fact, his roommate Paul was actually his lover. But Gerald promised that he wasn’t gay and he swore that he would never have relations with a man again. He told Carol Lynn that he wanted to have a marriage and a family with a woman. His homosexuality “problem” was over and in the past.

Though Carol Lynn was troubled about Gerald’s revelation, she trusted him and she trusted herself. She also trusted her church, which took the position that everyone was created heterosexual. Though people sometimes got “off track”, homosexuality was a problem that could be solved with enough faith and repentance. Carol Lynn, who by that time had been affectionately nicknamed Blossom by the glowing man in her life, decided to get married.

Carol Lynn and Gerald got married in 1966 and, for awhile, they were very happy. They had four children together and appeared to be devout Mormons who did everything right. Carol Lynn became a successful writer who published books of poetry and plays. Gerald was a good husband and a fine father. He had a talent for the culinary arts and music. But as the years went on, Gerald became restless. He started talking more about his homosexuality, reading the works of Walt Whitman and attending plays about homosexuals. The couple began to have arguments about how people should love each other and found that they could not come to a consensus.

Not long after that, Carol Lynn found out from third party that Gerald was unfaithful to her, having relationships with men. Neither Gerald nor Carol Lynn wanted to split up, so they tried to stay married. But the couple soon found that their differences eventually and inevitably pushed them apart. Twelve years after their temple marriage and the births of their four children, Carol Lynn and Gerald decided to get a divorce.

Even after the divorce, Carol Lynn and Gerald remained great friends. Carol Lynn met Gerald’s boyfriends. Gerald stayed in contact with his children. And when he eventually contracted AIDS in the early 1980s, Gerald came home to die with his friend and ex wife and their children by his side.

My thoughts…

I’m a sucker for a good memoir and Carol Lynn Pearson has written an eloquent one in Goodbye, I Love You (originally published in 1986). As I read this book, I was amazed by how graceful, understanding, and kind she was to her former husband. They truly did love each other. Unfortunately, they could not be married to each other. Carol Lynn Pearson was monogamous and could not share her husband’s love with anyone. And Gerald Pearson loved his ex wife, but he could not share the bond with her that he could have with a man. Naturally, because they were Mormons, their church would not approve of the lifestyle Gerald led.

With heartbreaking honesty, Carol Lynn Pearson describes what it was like to be in her situation. Gerald had contracted AIDS when it was still a very new disease. Carol Lynn explains what it was like to have to prepare their children for their father’s inevitable death. They had figured out that he was gay and accepted it. It hadn’t occurred to them not to love their father, despite his desire for men.

I will warn readers that there are a couple of passages in this book that may be shocking. For instance, Carol Lynn writes about meeting one of Gerald’s friends who had tried to get treated for his homosexuality at a clinic run by BYU. According to Pearson, in the early days of the clinic, homosexual men were literally given shock treatment to try to cure them of their sexual feelings toward other men. Although I had heard about this program before I read the book, I was still somewhat horrified as I read about it. This same friend related a story to Carol Lynn about a young man who had also gone through the shock therapy and ended up killing himself because the treatments did not work. Gerald agreed that he had known many men who had committed suicide because they couldn’t stop being gay. The men had been led to believe by church authorities that they were better off dead than homosexual.

While I can understand on some level that perhaps the church authorities meant well when they advised their homosexual members to repent and “get therapy”, I am also disgusted by it. It makes me sad to think about how many promising lives were snuffed out by suicide because these men had been expected to change their feelings and they found they could not change, no matter how much they prayed, fasted, and repented.

Aside from that horrifying aspect of the book, I found Goodbye, I Love You to be very educational. I also felt a lot of empathy toward Gerald, Carol Lynn, and their children. Because of their belief system, Carol Lynn and Gerald felt they had to get married. I’m sure Gerald really did think he could overcome his desire to be with men. I’m sure he wanted to. When one of the children dramatically declared that she was through with boys and wanted to be a lesbian nun, Gerald told her that if she could be straight, she should. He told her that being gay was difficult and that no one would ever choose it.

Likewise, I’m sure Carol Lynn felt cheated and betrayed. She believed Gerald when he told her he could change. They were sealed in the temple for time and all eternity. When it all fell apart, she was left with their four children and no marriage. As a true believing Mormon, this was not a small issue for Carol Lynn Pearson. Fortunately, people in the church were understanding about the divorce and no one seemed to judge her for it. But she had feared they would.

In any case, Goodbye, I Love You is not a happy tale, but it is one of great beauty, honesty, and tragedy. I admire the way Carol Lynn and Gerald were able to be friends after their divorce. I especially admire Carol Lynn’s ability to come to terms with Gerald’s homosexuality and present their story with such love and sensitivity. I’m pleased to recommend Goodbye, I Love You and give it five stars.

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5 thoughts on “Repost: my review of Carol Lynn Pearson’s Goodbye, I Love You…

  1. I loved the book. I identify with her in some ways but do not in other ways. LDS inc. makes such bold claims that either it has to be what it purports to be or is a hoax. I couldn’t stay with it even though I knew it was a hoax just because I thought there was more good than bad. I don’t see how Carol Lynn cannot know it’s based entirely on a false premise. I understand that when one’s ancestors crossed the plains with one of Brigham’s companies, one is more invested than I would be. Still, the whole premise is tied up divine authority of the hierarchy and anyone on whom they bestow authority. Carol Lynn is too smart not to know that the Mormon priesthood is hogwash. None of this is the main point of her book, though.

    I really like her, though, and wish I knew her.

      • Did you read her daughter Emily Pearson’s book “Dancing with Crazy”? I really enjoyed that one, too, though it’s been quite some time since I read it.

      • I did read it and have a review somewhere, but decided not to post it yesterday because I had already reposted four yesterday. Most people don’t read the book reviews unless it’s a subject they’re specifically interested in. I’ll try to repost my review of Emily’s book, if I can find it. I also read Emily’s ex husband’s book, which was a one man show, I think. I don’t know if I have the review available for that one, since I originally posted it on Epinions.

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