book reviews, celebrities, music

Repost: Julie Andrews’ Home: A Memoir of My Early Years…

Here’s another reposted book review that I wrote for Epinions.com. It was written in November 2008, and appears here as/is.

I have always admired the great actress and singer Julie Andrews, star of My Fair LadyMary Poppins, andThe Sound of Music. I also love to read true stories, especially biographies and autobiographies. When I spotted Julie Andrews’ autobiography, Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, I decided I had to read it. I wanted to know how this woman who has had such an enduring career in show business got her start.

Julie Andrews began life on October 1, 1935 on Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England, UK. Her mother was an aspiring vaudevillian actress and musician and her father was a teacher. She was born Julia Elizabeth Wells, but her name was later changed to Julie Andrews when her mother got remarried to Ted Andrews, a singer and actor. Apparently, it was thought that the name Julie flowed better with her new last name than did Julia. Julie Andrews muses that she never knew how her father felt about the name change but concedes that he must have been hurt.

Using a very intimate writing style, Andrews reveals how she grew up the product of a broken home, with a mother who drank too much and enjoyed too many extramarital affairs. Along with this turbulent home life, Julie Andrews also lived through the worst years of World War II. She includes some memories of those times, when German invasions were common and feared. She writes of hearing air raid sirens and sharp warnings from the warden who passed by. She vividly describes hiding in subway stations for safety during bombing raids and comments that her stepfather, Ted Andrews, once forgot his guitar. The guitar was very precious, since it provided him his livelihood. He managed to retrieve it and entertained the masses in the subway station. I found Andrews’ tales about living through World War II especially interesting, since I wasn’t around during that time and am now living in a place where it still leaves an enduring impression.

I like Julie. She’s a woman after my own heart.

I was also interested in reading Julie Andrews’ life story because I am a singer. Julie Andrews is, of course, a wonderful singer. She was discovered by her stepfather, who revealed her powerful four octave voice and started giving her singing lessons. Andrews’ mother was a brilliant accompanist. It wasn’t long before Julie was a part of their act. Not long after she became part of the act, she became its star, complete with top billing.

Naturally, Julie Andrews’ vocal training and performances led to later training with a string of eccentric but excellent teachers. I think I would have enjoyed reading about these experiences even if I weren’t myself a singer. Andrews’ writing makes them come alive. Since I do sing, I found I could relate a bit to her experiences. Andrews also reveals that she has perfect pitch, which I also have; it was interesting to read about that as well.

Julie Andrews made her Broadway debut in 1954, when she was 19 years old. She was very successful in her role in The Boy Friend, which led to one of her best known Broadway roles as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. I found Andrews’ comments about My Fair Lady fascinating, especially as she revealed tidbits about the great actor, Rex Harrison, who played Professor Higgins. Andrews also dishes about working with Richard Burton, who was apparently very crass and egotistical.

I appreciated Andrews’ reflections on her family members. She writes about her mother, stepfather, and father, of course. She also includes information about her many siblings, stepmother, and her daughter. Naturally, she also writes about her first marriage to Tony Walton.  Andrews even includes a “shocker” about her family that I wasn’t expecting.  I won’t reveal it here because I don’t want to spoil it, but I will remark that again, I found myself relating to her a bit.  Suffice it to say, it can be very tough living in a step situation.  It’s also tough living with an alcoholic.  Julie Andrews managed to do both and flourish.

Home includes two generous black and white photo sections, with pictures of her parents and grandparents as well as Andrews herself as a little girl. There are also photographs of Andrews in her roles. Unfortunately, Andrews rather abruptly ends this part of her life story at 1962, just as she was on verge of making Mary Poppins for Walt Disney. I was disappointed at the end of this book, because I wanted to know more about her later years. I hope she comes out with a sequel.

In any case, I think Home: A Memoir of My Early Years is worthwhile reading for anyone who enjoys a good memoir. Julie Andrews writes as if she’s sitting down and talking with her readers. I could practically hear her chirpy voice in my ears as I read her very personal and revealing narrative. I wish this book hadn’t ended quite as abruptly as it did, but as it is, she had a lot to write about during the first 27 years of her life. It leaves me hoping that her next book will be just as satisfying.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

Standard
book reviews, celebrities, love, marriage, memories

Repost: My review of Carly Simon’s book, Boys in the Trees: A Memoir…

I originally published this book review on my old blog on December 14, 2016. It appears here as/is.

I have long admired singer-songwriter Carly Simon.  Having been born in the early 1970s, her music, and that of her ex husband’s, James Taylor, has been a part of my personal soundtrack for many years.  I also enjoy reading life stories, especially by people I admire.  I downloaded Carly Simon’s 2015 memoir on the day it was released, but I’ve only just read it.  I tend to download a lot of stuff that interests me and it sits in the queue until the mood strikes for me to read it.  There was a time when I would have greedily devoured this book days after its release, but I guess I’m slowing down in my old age.

Anyway, Carly’s book is entitled Boys in the Trees: A Memoir.  I like the book’s title, since it references the title song from her 1978 album, which I remember almost wearing out during Christmas break 1991.  I had a month at home with my parents and had always loved the song “You Belong To Me”.  I bought the CD and played it non-stop.  It was a comfort during those bleak winter days when I was 19 years old and hating the semester break at home from college.

Simon’s book starts with her story of growing up in New York, the daughter of Richard Simon, one of the founders of the Simon & Schuster publishing company.  She had a privileged upbringing, surrounded by family and friends.  Her two older sisters were beautiful and talented.  Her brother, Peter, was younger and the son her father had wanted.  Carly writes that she was supposed to have been a boy named Carl, but when she came out female, her father simply added a “y” to the name.  Carly Simon’s father evidently didn’t mesh that well with his third child.  He was the first of many men to disappoint her.

As Simon grew older, her father grew frail.  Sidelined by strokes, he was eventually convinced to sell his interest in Simon & Schuster.  Carly’s mother, Andrea, fell out of love with her husband and had an affair with a much younger man named Ronny.  Starting at age 7, Carly also suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a visiting teenager who had seen porn and wanted to replicate it.

As a teenager, Carly Simon lived in Martha’s Vineyard. James Taylor’s family also had a home there and that was where the two of them met, when they were adolescents. In November 1972, they would marry at City Hall, wearing wedding bands they purchased for $17.95 each, at a Middle Eastern kiosk. The rings weren’t even the ones that had been on sale. Simon had been involved with other men, notably Mick Jagger and Warren Beatty. Taylor had been seeing Joni Mitchell before he hooked up with Carly. But they were destined to be together and make two children, Sally and Ben.

When James and Carly were still married.

Boys in the Trees is divided into three books.  I think Simon was wise to divide the book that way, since her story is not one that necessarily lends itself to seamlessness.  The last book is about her marriage to James Taylor, a man she clearly deeply admires and probably still even loves.  Sadly, James Taylor was apparently not a very good husband in the 1970s.  He had a pretty serious drug and alcohol problem, which Simon references, as well as a penchant for affairs with other women.  They were together when their careers were both smoking hot and, though they were able to make beautiful music together, it wasn’t enough to forge a commitment.  

Simon writes that things really went to hell in her marriage to James Taylor after she’d become a mother.  Suddenly, the children were more important and she could no longer turn a blind eye to Taylor’s dalliances.  I got the sense that perhaps James Taylor resented that.  In any case, she basically makes James Taylor of the 1970s out to be a selfish ass.  Whether or not he still is, I don’t know.

Wow… 40 years ago.

Naturally, whenever I read about another person’s relationship, I wonder a bit about the other sides of the story. And there always are other sides to include the truth. I don’t think Carly Simon is lying about what happened, and she admits to being difficult herself. But naturally, this book skews toward her perspective… not that I think cheating and drug abuse is necessarily acceptable behavior. Simon writes that she still lives in the house they lived in and much of it still bears Taylor’s design marks, some of which were not as inspired as his songwriting.

I think Carly Simon would have made a fine author had she not been a musician.  Her writing is elegant and interesting and I enjoyed reading about the many inspirations behind songs I’ve loved for years.  When she was married to Taylor, the two collaborated a lot on their albums.  It was cool to read about how Carly Simon came up with the ending coda for “Terra Nova”, a gorgeous collaboration on Taylor’s 1977 JT.  I well remember the hit song “Jesse” from the early 80s, which she reveals was actually inspired by her son, Ben.

As someone who has experienced anxiety and depression, I appreciated Carly’s revelations about her own issues with panic attacks.  She writes about one serious attack she suffered in Pittsburgh back in 1981, when she had to call upon the audience to help her.  She writes that she still gets letters from people who were at that concert, many of whom express a great deal of empathy for the situation she was in at the time.  Panic and anxiety kept Carly Simon off the public stage for several years.

Curiously, Simon’s book ends basically with her split from Taylor.  She doesn’t write about her second marriage to and divorce from poet Jim Hart, although she does mention him in her acknowledgments.  She doesn’t write much about her breast cancer battle, nor does she write about how it felt to become a grandmother.  But perhaps those stories will come later.

In any case, I really enjoyed Carly Simon’s memoir, Boys in the Trees.  I recommend it.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

Standard
book reviews, celebrities, music

Repost: Pat Benatar’s life story… no, she’s NOT a bore!

Here’s another reposted Epinions book review from December 2013. It appears as/is!

Ever since I was a little knothead in Virginia I have admired rock star Pat Benatar.  In fact, the very first record I ever purchased with my own money was a copy of Crimes of Passion (1980).  I remember struggling to save up about $8, walking down the busy highway next to my house to Murphy’s Mart, and handing over the crumpled bills for that album, which I then proceeded to play over and over again for years.  Thinking back on it, times were very different in the early 80s.  Anyway, I have always liked Pat Benatar’s music, so I decided to download her 2010 book Between a Heart and a Rock Place: A Memoir.  Pat Benatar wisely wrote this book with ghost writer Patsi Bale Cox. 

Benatar starts at the beginning, writing about her upbringing in New York, a tiny girl of Polish and Irish extraction among exotice Italian girls in Lindenhurst, Long Island.  Early on, she had an interest in music and thanks to dedicated music teachers in her school system, got classical training early.  She had a German voice teacher who taught her how to use her voice properly and had her singing like Julie Andrews.  But she wanted to rock and roll. 

Originally, Pat Benatar wanted to teach sex ed.  But teaching sex ed was not her destiny.  She dropped out of college after a semester and married her high school sweetheart, Dennis Benatar, who had joined the Army.  They moved to South Carolina and Virginia, two states near and dear to my heart.  Pat took up a brief career as a bank teller and was actually pretty good at the work.  But again, she wanted to rock and roll.  A singing waitress job in Richmond got her started and before long, she moved back to New York City and began singing at Catch a Rising Star, a club for up and coming singers.  She was soon on her way to rock and roll.

It wasn’t long before someone in the music business noticed Pat’s powerhouse pipes and she soon found herself with a band.  She met her husband, Neil Giraldo, when he came to audition for her band.  Benatar explains that she was immediately attracted to her guitar playing husband, a man she nicknamed Spyder.  She and Benatar divorced and pretty soon, one of the first ladies of rock was on her way to stardom.  She eventually married Giraldo in 1982.  They are still married and have two daughters, Haley and Hana. 

Pat Benatar and her husband, Neil Giraldo, are still rockin’.

My thoughts

I really enjoyed reading Pat Benatar’s story.  Looking on Amazon.com, I see a lot of folks criticized this book for being “boring”.  That’s funny, because I didn’t find it boring at all.  Benatar does write a lot about the music business, particularly her dealings with Chrysalis Records, the label who issued her first releases.  I was especially interested in what she wrote about the label’s co-founder, Terry Ellis.  I had read about him in Ray Coleman’s The Carpenters: The Untold Story: An Authorized Biography.  Terry Ellis had dated Karen Carpenter and Coleman had dished quite a bit about their relationship.  He’d made the British record producer sound like he was charming and fun, which was part of the reason he and Karen didn’t work out (Karen was more of a homebody, while Ellis liked to go out on the town).  Pat Benatar’s thoughts about Ellis were not complimentary at all.  Their relationship was all about business and apparently, Ellis was very sexist and apparently told Pa that no one came to a Pat Benatar concert to hear her sing… (REALLY???)

Apparently, the contract Benatar had with Chrysalis was brutal.  The record company demanded albums in quick succession, whether the band was ready to record or not.  Pat Benatar and her band worked very hard in the 1980s and apparently were treated like indentured servants by Chrysalis.  When Pat got pregnant, she had to deal with a lot of flak from the record company.  The powers that be wanted her to project a sexy vixen-like image, while she felt that wasn’t who she really was.  It really gives readers a look at the downside of being a rock star.

Aside from her dealings with Chrysalis, Pat Benatar writes a lot about her love for her family, especially her husband and daughters.  She writes about how she and Giraldo discovered Hana, Hawaii, a beautiful, off the beaten path town in Maui.  The two were married there and later built a home there, where they were neighbors with Kris Kristofferson. 

I am myself a singer, so I also appreciated Benatar’s commentary on singing.  I learned something I never knew when Benatar wrote about her first pregnancy.  Apparently, pregnancy makes your long muscles relax.  Since vocal chords are “long muscles” according to Pat, she found that when she was pregnant, she was able to do things vocally that she never could do before.  That almost makes me want to go out and get pregnant, just so I can find out for myself.  Unfortunately, at age 41, I’m afraid that ship might have sailed.

This book includes color photos, which I appreciated.  There’s one shot of her two daughters, nine years apart in age.  They look like they could be twins.  By the way, I loved reading about Pat Benatar’s devotion as a wife and a mother.  She comes across as very family oriented and grounded.  I also loved that she wrote that while she is a very political person, she doesn’t use her status as a rock star to promote her political views.  I think that’s a smart policy and I appreciate it.

Overall

I like Pat Benatar’s music and I think I would like her as a person, too.  I understand that some readers might have picked up this book hoping for juicy stories about celebrities or crazy stories about sex, drugs, and rock and roll.  Between a Heart and a Rock Place is not that kind of book; which, in my view, makes it refreshing.  Pat Benatar is a hard working woman who has taken good care of herself.  So she didn’t do drugs, smoke, drink, or screw her way to the top…  that doesn’t make her boring, folks.  It makes her smart.

I recommend this book, but only if you want to read about someone who is a worthy role model for young women.  Don’t read it looking for cheap gossip.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

Standard
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.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

Standard
book reviews, homosexuality, LDS

Repost: A review of The Gate and The Garden: The Apostate Journals of a Gay Mormon Missionary in Japan

Here’s another reposted book review. This one was written October 18, 2017, and appears as/is.

After some concerted effort last night and an early bedtime, I finally managed to finish Corbin Brodie’s 2016 book, The Gate and The Garden: The Apostate Journals of a Gay Mormon Missionary in Japan.  I downloaded this book in 2016, less than a month after it was published.  I just got around to reading it this month.  Sorry to be so slow, but I have a whole stack of books to be read and I keep finding more.

Although I have read and reviewed quite a few exmo lit books, I had kind of gotten out of the habit.  I enjoy a good story about what it’s like to be Mormon, especially when the person is an ex Mormon.  There tends to be a lot less testimony sharing in books by the exmos.  Corbin Brodie (a pseudonym, as are all the names used in this book) is no longer LDS, but he did serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he was a young lad.  In those days, missions for the guys started when they were nineteen years old; since 2012, the age limit has been set at eighteen.  I am not exactly sure when Brodie served in the Sapporo, Japan mission, but it must have been before 1991, since he makes references to the Soviet Union.

Corbin Brodie grew up in Canada.  He has a younger brother named Duncan and mentions his mother was a very faithful member of the LDS church.  Brodie and his brother were raised to be as faithful as their mother was.  Although I get the sense that Brodie wasn’t exactly TBM (true believing Mormon) from the get go, he agreed to served the expected mission.  His book mostly consists of journal entries he wrote during his time abroad and while he was at the Missionary Training Center.  It also includes a few short stories.  I gather that, like me, Brodie has an impulse to write.  I’m sure writing has saved his sanity more than a few times, especially when he was living in Japan.

By his own account, Brodie got off to a good start at the training center.  He was made a leader during his weeks in Provo, learning Japanese and the missionary lifestyle.  He adjusted to life as a missionary and went to Sapporo, where over the course of two years, he went through a series of different companions.  Brodie seemed to have an affinity for Japanese and picked it up early.  In his journal, he uses a number of Japanese words for church terms.  For example, he doesn’t call his companions “Elder” lastname, as Mormon missionaries call each other, Brodie calls them “Choro”, which I gather is the Japanese term.  He refers to other church officials and the mission home by their Japanese terms, too.  I’m pretty sure that the missionaries in non English speaking areas do use the local terms instead of Elder, Sister, or President.  Anyway, I kind of liked that he used those terms because I enjoy picking up foreign words, even if I don’t necessarily enjoy learning other languages.

At 19 years old, Brodie is now living in an environment where he is surrounded by guys his age, some of whom he finds attractive.  Given that he’s a Mormon, at his sexual peak, and serving as a missionary, being gay is, to say the least, a special challenge.  Although it’s not considered a sin to have “same sex attraction” (as the Mormons put it), it is considered sinful to act on that attraction.  So, I can only imagine that as difficult as being a missionary must have been, it must have been even more difficult to be a gay missionary.  Add in the fact that Brodie didn’t seem to enjoy Japan that much (he mentions not liking the food), and probably would not have had a whole lot of time to enjoy it even if he did, and you have two challenging years.

Brodie is musical and creative, but listening to music that isn’t church approved is forbidden.  Still, he manages to play the piano sometimes.  He seems to have some good experiences with Japanese locals, many of whom don’t want to be church members, but are okay with simply being friends.  He has some good companions who are friendly and some who are “hardasses” bucking for rank or simply people with whom he has nothing in common.  Through it all, though he serves faithfully, Brodie realizes that he doesn’t really believe in Mormonism.  It’s getting harder and harder for him to pretend to have a testimony.  Finally, during his second year, just four months before he’s scheduled to leave Japan, he has a crisis of sorts.  He makes it known that he wants to leave Japan.

Brodie’s leaders do all they can to convince Brodie to stay in country and finish his mission.  They tell him if he leaves early, he’ll be on the hook for the $2000 plane ticket.  Brodie realizes he’ll have to work a long time to be able to pay off that debt.  I actually had to laugh at this, not because it’s funny, but because essentially Brodie was kind of being “trafficked”.  It doesn’t sound that different than the women who are brought into foreign countries and forced to work off the price of their plane tickets.  Also, while I’m still not sure what years Brodie was serving, $2000 must have been an astronomical amount of money at that time.  It’s a lot now.

Brodie also considers his mother, a very faithful TBM who is in school earning her social work degree.  He doesn’t want to disappoint her or his brother, who has also put in his papers to go on a mission.  Eventually, he is convinced to stay and sent to the mission home to finish out his last four months.  The mission home is less onerous, except that Brodie chafes under the rules, including the one that doesn’t allow him to cross the street to buy a candy bar without a companion with him.

Brodie’s story ends rather abruptly.  There’s no neat wrap up at the end of his journals, although he does provide an interesting afterword.  He’s now living in the United Kingdom and has a son, although he is no longer romantically involved with his son’s mother (she’s a dear friend).  He’s still gay.  After he returned home from Japan, he took about three months to break it to his mother that he didn’t want to be LDS.  And his mother, to her great credit, eventually accepted it, although it was very hard for her.

Although I don’t remember if he mentioned it, I got the idea that Brodie’s mother must have been from Scotland.  He writes of going to Edinburgh before the mission and missing Scotland.  I can relate to how much he misses Scotland, since it’s one of my favorite places.  I also got the sense that even if Brodie hadn’t been homosexual, he would have left Mormonism.  It seemed to me that his intellect was too sharp to accept what the church teaches wholesale.  He couldn’t make 2+2=5, like some people can.

My one criticism about Brodie’s book is that it’s very long.  Although his writing is very good and engaging, it was tough going getting through this book, particularly with the inclusion of the short stories.  I realize that he basically published his journals as he wrote them, but personally, I think this book would have been stronger if it had been abridged somewhat.  The short stories were of good quality, but they kind of took away the flow of Brodie’s missionary story.  I love a good short story, but I don’t like to be distracted when I’m reading.  I felt the fiction pieces were somewhat a distraction.

I do think this book would be well-received by ex Mormons, especially male homosexuals who have served missions.  I think they will be especially able to relate to Brodie’s experiences.  I was happy to read that as hard as the mission was, it didn’t seem like the whole thing was a waste of time.  He did seem to come away from the experience with friends, some of whom I hope remained friends after he left the church.

Anyway, if I were going to assign a rating, I think I’d give The Gate and The Garden: The Apostate Journals of a Gay Mormon Missionary in Japan a solid four stars out of five.  It’s well worth reading if you’re interested.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

Standard