book reviews

Repost: Toni Tennille tells all in her life story…

I am reposting this book review that I wrote for my original blog on August 18, 2016. It’s in honor of my Facebook friend, Marguerite, who posted about The Captain and Tennille today. Also, I genuinely enjoyed Toni Tennille’s book. She’s an interesting and talented lady. This review is as/is, the way I posted it almost five years ago.

Captain and Tennille perform during their heyday with two of Toni’s three sisters singing backup.  Toni’s sisters were also musically talented.  I’m pretty sure they’re all lip syncing here, though.   

I just finished reading Toni Tennille: A Memoir, the life story of singer, songwriter, and actress Toni Tennille, who is best known as half of the 70s pop duo, Captain and Tennille.  As a bonafide child of the 70s, music by Captain and Tennille was part of my early soundtrack.  Their cover version of Neil Sedaka’s “Love Will Keep Us Together” was a huge hit in 1975.  I grew up hearing it on the radio and at my Aunt Gayle and Uncle Brownlee’s house.  Brownlee is my dad’s younger brother and a musician; he always had hipper musical tastes than my dad did.

Captain and Tennille also had a popular variety show on ABC that aired for one season.  I never saw their show because besides being very young in 1976, I was also living in England.  As Toni Tennille explains it, in those days TV wasn’t as global as it is now.  She and her famous ex husband, Daryl Dragon (aka the Captain), were able to travel to Scotland on vacation and not be recognized by leagues of adoring fans.

Anyway, I decided to read Toni Tennille’s story when I read an article about her online.  She and Daryl Dragon got divorced not long ago.  They had been married for 39 years and both are in their golden years.  I was curious about that, but I also admire Toni Tennille’s talents as a musician.  So I downloaded the book, which Tennille wrote with help from her niece, Caroline Tennille St. Clair.  I just got around to reading it and, I must say, I found it a fascinating and enjoyable book.  Caroline did a great job in making the book seem as if it came straight from her Aunt Toni.

At the very beginning of her story, Tennille writes about being a small child in Montgomery, Alabama, playing outside.  Suddenly, there was an accident that could have altered her destiny.  A heavy wheelbarrow fell on Toni’s finger, nearly severing it.  Her parents rushed her to the hospital, where she underwent surgery.  Young Toni had shown musical talent and had an interest in playing the piano.  She lost part of her finger, but then went through many surgeries to reconstruct the digit so she’d eventually be able to play her instrument.  Bear in mind, this was going on in the 1940s, when surgeries were much more primitive than they are now and anesthesia consisted of ether. 

She continues her story with tales about growing up in an era when blacks and whites were segregated.  Her parents were fairly well off; her dad owned a furniture store and her mother was on a television show.  They had hired help.  The help consisted of several black women who looked after Toni and her three sisters.  Toni explains that her family treated the help with dignity and respect.  Racism always made the Tennille family uncomfortable.  Still, if I had to mention a part of the book that made me a little uneasy, it was that part. 

Fate led the Tennilles out of Alabama when Toni was a student at Auburn University.  Her father’s business failed and Toni had to drop out of school.  But it turned out there was a bigger life waiting for the family in California.  It was there that Toni met Daryl Dragon, who would eventually become her second husband.  Daryl Dragon came from a wealthy California family.  His mother had been a singer and his father was Carmen Dragon, a famed conductor.  All of the Dragon siblings had musical talent, but Daryl was said to be the most talented.  He was working with The Beach Boys when he and Toni met.  Thanks to Daryl, Toni landed herself a gig playing with the big time as a member of The Beach Boys’ band.

As time passed, Toni and Daryl started working together.  They became an act.  People thought they were married, so they eventually decided to make it official at a wedding chapel in Nevada.  Sadly, although Toni claims to have been in love with her husband and wrote many songs for and about him, he never seemed to return her affections.  They slept in separate bedrooms.  Daryl respected his wife for her musical abilities, but didn’t seem into her as a woman.  And that was the state of their marriage for a very long time.

Toni Tennille’s talk show.

Based on Toni’s many observations about her ex husband, my guess is that he’s more than a bit narcissistic and/or perhaps suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome.  She claims that he saw her as a possession.  He would get very jealous when she was involved in any acting job that required her to kiss another man.  And yet, when she was at home, he never kissed her very often.  He spent a lot of time alone and adhered to weird, strict diets, which he expected his wife to follow.  In one story, Tennille writes about eating nothing but yellow grapefruit for weeks.  She writes of visiting beautiful cities world renowned for food and ending up eating tasteless crap her husband favored.

The “Captain”, so nicknamed by one of the Beach Boys, was rarely without his hat.  Tennille explains that he started balding in his 30s and was very self-conscious about his thinning hair.  So he would never be hatless, even in places where it was customary or compulsory to remove one’s hat.  Toni Tennille missed out on seeing the Sistine Chapel because her husband refused to remove his hat.  He also has a condition that affects his eyes, making them look strange.  Dragon was self-conscious about the problem, which prompted a lot of fans to write in and ask what was wrong with him.  That was also a source of much shame and embarrassment for him and he took it out on his wife.

While Toni Tennille writes a lot about her career and some of the great things she was able to do, a lot of this book is about her marriage to Daryl Dragon.  And folks, I’ll be honest.  As interesting as it was to read about her marriage, it was also more than a bit depressing.  Here she was, this beautiful, talented, vivacious woman and she spent her best years married to a man who didn’t really love her.  She allowed him to dictate so many things about her life.  It wasn’t until she was in her 70s that she finally had enough and got a divorce.  However, despite the divorce, it seems the Captain and Tennille still talk.  Toni writes that they speak on the phone every couple of weeks or so.  I guess old habits really do die hard.

Despite the fact that I think Toni Tennille should have divorced many years ago, I did like her book.  She comes across as very likable and friendly.  Ultimately, she keeps this book pretty positive, yet I never got the sense she was embellishing about the ordeals she went through in her personal life.  If you’re curious, I recommend reading Toni Tennille’s Memoir.

Edited to add: Daryl Dragon died on January 2, 2019.

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Repost: Buttprints: The Thing that Wouldn’t Leave… (a review of You Can Smile Now You’re Rid of This A**hole)

Here’s another reposted book review. I read and reviewed this book on Epinions.com December 12, 2012. The author, who uses a pseudonym, has become a good Facebook friend of mine. We “met” on RfM some years ago. She’s really witty and funny, although her story is scary and cautionary. I am reposting it as/is.

I guess I should consider myself very lucky.  I met my beloved husband of ten years, Bill, on the Internet.  We did not meet on a dating site, though.  In fact, we started out as casual friends, having first “met” in a chat room based on a mutual interest.  Over the course of about three years, our casual internet friendship bloomed into love.  I have no regrets over having met my spouse online; though I do know that others haven’t been as lucky as I was.

I just finished reading You Can Smile Now You’re Rid of This A**hole: A Memoir of Abuse and Discovery by Bobbi Botaz (2012).  The title of this book, which I downloaded for my Kindle, pretty much says it all.  Like me, Bobbi Botaz got friendly with a man she met online.  Like me, she met her online boyfriend in person and ended up living with him.  Unlike me, she has many regrets for having met “Rick Doubledee” offline and allowing him into her life.

Botaz grew up Mormon, though she was definitely not one of the faith’s most devout followers.  She explains her upbringing as the book begins, perhaps shedding some light on why she has had such terrible luck with men.  It starts with unsatisfying high school dates, continues with a brief, loveless marriage that produces her son, Eric, and ends with Rick, the so-called “thing that wouldn’t leave”.  After a flowery and romantic online courtship, Rick moves from Pittsburgh to “Goldeneye”, a pseudonym for the Colorado town where Botaz was living in the late 1990s.  From the get go, it’s pretty clear that he’s not the man Botaz thought he was as he shows up in a beater of a car, stuffed to the gills with his worldly possessions.  Botaz and her son are both immediately repulsed by Rick’s slovenly appearance; yet incredibly, she lets him move in with her, where he lives and freeloads for the next two years.

I was astonished as I read about the things Botaz and her son put up with when Rick was living with them.  He was chronically unemployed and always had an excuse as to why he couldn’t support himself.  He claimed to be sick, yet had no issues eating Botaz out of house and home or smoking cigarettes.  Rick was a very “talented” con man.  Despite the fact that Botaz didn’t particularly enjoy her loser house guest’s company, she continued to let Rick live with her as she financially supported him, even when it became clear that he was dabbling in some risky behaviors that could have put Botaz and her son in grave danger.  As time went on, Botaz realized that not only had she put herself at tremendous risk, she had also put Eric at risk by letting Rick live there.   

As I read this account, I couldn’t help thinking to myself that something like this would never happen to me.  And yet, I have to wonder if maybe I could have been victimized as Botaz was.  Thankfully, she does eventually find the courage to give him the boot.  As he leaves her life, he says “You can smile now.  You’re rid of this a**hole”, gifting Botaz with the perfect title for her book about their miserable life together.  Unfortunately, his butt prints were still left in her sofa long after he’d gone.      

Full disclosure here.  I have interacted with the author of this book on the Recovery from Mormonism Web site and Facebook.  I think that gives me a bit more insight into her story than others might get just from reading You Can Smile Now.  Botaz has a wry sense of humor that comes through in her writing.  While I couldn’t help shaking my head in dismay as I read about how she allowed Rick to take over her life, I also felt relief that she and her son survived the ordeal.  Maybe Botaz wasn’t the most street smart Internet user in the world back in the late 1990s, but she did at least learn from her mistakes and is willing to share her experiences.  She also takes responsibility for her choices, which I think is very refreshing.  A lot of people would simply blame Rick for being an a**hole, but Botaz seems very cognizant of her part in this fiasco.  And again, she’s learned from her mistakes and seems determined to be smarter in the future. 

I think Bobbi Botaz has guts to put this story out there for the world, since I expect some readers will judge her.  But if her story serves as a warning for just one person– male or female– I think it will have been well worth the effort to read it.     

I recommend this book to anyone who has ever been tempted by an Internet romance and needs a cautionary tale.  I also recommend this book to people who like true stories about real people.

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Repost: My review of Off Balance by Dominique Moceanu…

And finally, a repost of my review of Olympic gold medalist gymnast Dominique Moceanu’s book, Off Balance, which I read and reviewed in June 2012. This review is posted as/is, so Dominique is no longer 30.

I will never forget the summer Olympics of 1996.  They were held in Atlanta, Georgia, a city I would eventually briefly call home.  Though Atlanta is now not so far from home, back in 1996, it was halfway around the world from where I was.  At that time, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Republic of Armenia.  The United States Embassy had graciously allowed Peace Corps Volunteers to use its services, which included a laundry, movie theater, and restaurant.  The restaurant got the Armed Forces Network (AFN), which aired American television shows and, of course, the Olympic Games! 

The 1996 Games were very special, especially for the women’s gymnastics team, which won team gold and consisted of seven amazing young ladies.  One young lady on the 1996 women’s gymnastics team at the Olympics was Dominique Moceanu, author of the brand new memoir, Off Balance: A Memoir.  This book, which comes on the market just in time for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, was also written by Paul and Teri Williams.  

Dominique Moceanu’s electrifying floor routine in Atlanta, Georgia.

Who is Dominique Moceanu?

Dominique Moceanu had already made a lot of headlines before the Games.  At 14, she was the youngest and tiniest member of the women’s gymnastics team.  Born to immigrant Romanian parents, in many ways Moceanu bore a striking resemblance to another famous Romanian gymnast, Nadia Comaneci.  Besides looking a lot like Nadia, Moceanu had the same famous coaches, Bela and Marta Karolyi, and the same athletic power, grace, and charisma.  And just like Nadia at 14 years old, 14 year old Dominique Moceanu won gold for her country at the Olympics.  She will always be the youngest American gymnast to win gold, since the eligibiity rules changed after 1996 and now female gymnasts must be at least 15 years old to compete.

Dominique Moceanu was born about a year after her parents’ wedding in 1980 and she was very impressive from the start.  At six months old, her parents had her hang by her hands from a clothesline.  Even as a baby, her grip was amazing and somehow her parents knew they had a gymnast on their hands.

Being an amazing gymnast has its price, however.  Moceanu explains that since her parents were old school Romanians, she suffered a bit trying to adjust to American culture.  Her parents were very poor and came from a country where family honor is a very important concept.  Consequently, Moceanu worked very hard as she grew up and had little control or say over her own life.  Her late father, Dmitru Moceanu, was very ambitious for his daughter and, along with the Karolyis, forced her to train endlessly.  He was very controlling and not above using violence to get what he wanted. 

At age ten, Moceanu began working with the Bela and Marta Karolyi, whose training methods were effective, but brutal.  I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Dominque as she described a childhood spent in a gym full of old equipment and ever changing coaches.  The truth was, the Karolyis didn’t actually do most of the coaching themselves.  They hired and fired different people at the drop of a hat.  

Behind Dominique’s powerful tumbling and confident smile, there was a young lady who was truly suffering for her sport.  Bela and Marta Karolyi, though famous and charismatic on camera, were exceedingly demanding and critical coaches who forced Dominique to starve herself as she put her growing body through punishing and grueling practices.  When Dominique became famous and started earning money, her father squandered it on a huge gym, forcing Moceanu to go to court to become emancipated from her parents at age 17. 

In 2007, Moceanu learned that her parents had kept a secret from her and her younger sister, Christina.  They had given up another daughter for adoption.  Dominique learned of her long lost sister, Jennifer Bricker, when Bricker sent her a letter, pictures, and adoption documents.  Besides the fact that Dominique did not know that she had a sister, she also didn’t know that her sister was born without legs and that was the main reason her parents had given her up.  Moceanu found out about her sister as she was about to give birth to her first child and was trying to prepare for final exams in college.

Now just 30 years old, Moceanu is a married mother of two, an Olympic champion, a college graduate, and getting to know the sister her parents gave away.  To top it all off, her father, with whom she’d always had a complicated relationship, died a few years ago of a rare eye cancer. 

My thoughts

Yes, Dominique Moceanu has seen, done, and lived a lot in her thirty years.  Ordinarily, I would say she was too young to write her life story, but there’s plenty to read about in Off Balance.  This book is written as if Dominque were sitting nearby, having a chat with a friend.  In a casual, conversational style, Moceanu, with help from her ghost writers, retells her life story.  Curiously enough, she doesn’t start at the beginning.  The book begins with Moceanu’s discovery that she had a long lost sister… one born without legs, no less!  From there, Dominique explains how her parents met and wed in an arranged marriage and left Romania for the United States, determined to make a better life and eventually became a world class and world famous gymnastics family.

I didn’t really care too much for the initial jumping around this book did, but I’m kind of old school when it comes to reading life stories.  I like to start at the beginning.  But I also understand that a lot of people will be buying this book because of the recent buzz surrounding Moceanu’s legless sister.  Indeed, I didn’t even know Off Balance existed until I saw a news clip about Dominque and Jennifer Bricker finally meeting each other.  I would have read the book anyway, since I love memoirs about famous gymnasts, but I have to admit this astonishing development in Moceanu’s family life is very compelling.     

I was very touched by how accepting Moceanu and her younger sister, Christina, were toward Jennifer Bricker.  Indeed, they all seem to get along as if they had spent their whole lives together.  And Bricker is truly amazing in her own right; she seems to have inherited the amazing athletic genes that helped make Dominque Moceanu a champion.  Despite not having legs, Jennifer Bricker is able to be a gymnast herself and now works as an aerialist.

Aside from all of her family dramas, Moceanu also writes about the politics and corruption she encountered in the elite gymnastics community.  And she includes the story of how she met and fell in love with her husband, podiatrist and gymnast Dr. Michael Canales.

Moceanu includes plenty of color photos.  I read this book on an iPad, so the photos were easy to see.  The book was also a very quick and satisfying read.  I finished it in less than 24 hours.

Overall

Dominique Moceanu may only be 30, but she’s done a lot of living.  I enjoyed reading Off Balance and would recommend it heartily to anyone who enjoys memoirs, particularly about sports figures.

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Reposted: An updated review of Marya Hornbacher’s Wasted…

I read Marya Hornbacher’s landmark memoir about her experience with anorexia nervosa many years ago. In 2015, I re-read it and wrote an updated review, which I am reposting here as/is.

Back in 2003, when I had just started writing product reviews on Epinions.com, I posted a review of Marya Hornbacher’s groundbreaking book, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia.  This book was originally published in 1998.  I remember that very clearly, because at the time, I was working at a restaurant and didn’t have a lot of money to blow on books and music.  I really wanted to read it.  So did everyone else that used the local library.  I finally checked it out months after it was first published, then bought my own copy.  Marya Hornbacher’s storytelling blew me away.  She’s close to my age, too, so I could relate to some of the cultural references she made during her coming of age years, even though she’s from Minnesota and I’m from Virginia.

I recently decided to re-read Marya’s book, even though I read it a few times years ago.  It’s been a long time since I was last diet obsessed.  Though no one would believe it to see me now… and they probably wouldn’t have believed it then, either… when I was a teenager, I used to diet obsessively.  I never made myself throw up or binged, but I did used to restrict food and would, on occasion, go without eating for days.  It’s been many years since I last did that.  I find that now, if I try to starve myself, I can’t really function very well.  I get pale, shaky, confused, and extremely short tempered.  Though it’s been awhile since I last fainted, I imagine if I went too long without food, I probably would.  I used to faint all the time when I was younger. 

As a teen and college student, I would starve myself all the time.  I did it, in part, to lose weight.  I probably also did it for attention, and because I had very low self-esteem and hated myself.  Some of my friends knew, but my family never did.  If they had known, I doubt they would have cared that much, since I have never been thin.  Either that, or they wouldn’t have believed me, unless they had seen it for themselves.  I do remember my mom yelling at me once when she hadn’t seen me eat in awhile, but it seemed to be more out of annoyance than alarm.  I have since come to realize that a lot of times, my mom is annoyed about being concerned.  The two conditions go hand in hand for her.  If I’m honest, I’m kind of the same way.  I get worried, but it annoys me when I feel worried.

So anyway, I just finished Wasted yesterday.  I can’t say I’m as blown away by it as I was in the late 1990s, though I still think it’s a damn good book.  She starts at the beginning, explaining that her parents, though still married at the time the book was published, were a very dysfunctional couple.  They had weird food habits.  Marya would have friends over and there would be “nothing to eat”… or, at least nothing that kids would like.  Her mother didn’t keep sugar in the house, so there was no chocolate, no sugary cereals, no Cheetos or potato chips… 

By the time she was in fourth grade, Marya was a full blown bulimic.  She later progressed into anorexia nervosa and was deeply entrenched in it by age 15.  As a teen, she was hospitalized three times.  The first time, it was for bulimia, so she had fewer restrictions than some of her fellow patients, who were there due to anorexia nervosa.  She gained and lost weight repeatedly, eventually reaching a low of 52 pounds in 1993, while a college student.  She very nearly died.  In fact, doctors once gave her a week to live.  She managed to rebound and recover, though she was eventually diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder with atypical features.  I read about her experiences being bipolar when I picked up her book, Madness: A Bipolar Life, published in 2008.

Marya Hornbacher definitely knows what she’s writing about, though her experiences were very extreme.  She’s also a very vivid writer who has a relatable voice.  Her eating disorders, while bad enough on their own, were mixed with alcoholism and drug abuse.  She got involved with males… guys she didn’t know well and didn’t care too much about.  At the same time, she was extraordinarily talented.  She spent a year at Interlochen, a Michigan private high school for artistic teenagers and, according to Hornbacher, a hotbed of eating disorders.  Her health suffered so much there that she had to leave after a year, yet she still managed to achieve a lot.  She won a scholarship to American University in Washington, DC, Bill’s alma mater as well as my older sister’s.  She did not graduate from American, though, because once again, her eating disorders got in the way. 

Throughout the book, Marya offers “interludes”, passages written after she had supposedly recovered.  She explains what it’s like to read her files, written by medical and psychological professionals who took care of her.  She also writes about physical damage she did to herself and how it affected her circa 1996.  I have no idea if she still has physical issues nearly twenty years later.   I would guess she does. 

I suppose if I had to offer a criticism of Wasted, I’d say that it may be dangerous reading for some people.  Those who have struggled with eating disorders may find it triggering or “too informational” on how to maintain the disease.  For example, Marya writes that many bulimics eat certain brightly colored foods so they have a marker when they vomit to see what’s come up.  That’s a trick that may not have occurred to those reading her book for “thinspiration”.  Some people recovering from an eating disorder may feel compelled to try some of Marya’s methods themselves. 

On the other hand, I don’t know how in the world Marya could have written her story without describing the disease and what she did to maintain it.  While being more vague about the extremes of her illness– for example, not telling readers that she got down to 52 pounds– might have made this “safer” for people who have anorexia nervosa, it also would have made for much less compelling reading.  People who don’t understand eating disorders and don’t know why they are so dangerous should know about the more dramatic aspects of the illness.  Aside from that, people with eating disorders are forever looking for “thinspiration” anyway and they’ll find it wherever they think it exists.  An Amazon.com underwear ad could be triggering to someone with an eating disordered mindset.  I don’t think it’s possible to completely protect people from themselves.

In any case, Marya Hornbacher’s first book, written when she was just twenty-three years old, is brilliantly composed, full of candor, and uses vivid language.  I do recommend it to those who wonder what would compel someone to starve themselves, binge, and purge.  Those who struggle with eating disorders may do well be be cautious.

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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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