Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book at ALA Midwinter 2013. All quotes are based on an uncorrected text.
“So, you told your brothers you were on a date with me so that you could sneak off and see your boyfriend who doesn’t know that you also slept with me while he was locked away in a religious asylum. Good job, Simon.”
The Peters brothers, Paul, Luke, Simon and Jude grew up in a religious family in Waynesboro. The two youngest brothers, twins Simon and Jude, have always been a little different; Jude is mute, and Simon is gay. Simon never gets a chance to find out if his parents would have accepted him because they were killed in a car crash before he was outed. Then his boyfriend, Stephen, is shipped off to a pray-away-the-gay facility after his father catches them together. Simon has already dropped out of high school and become Jude’s primary caregiver, so losing Stephen is just one more blow in a life that went off the tracks when his parents died. The brothers make sacrifice after sacrifice to try to keep their family together, but no one sees the toll this is taking on Jude, or is prepared for the lengths to which Jude will go to protect his family.
In The Waiting Tree, Lindsay Moynihan has written a dark and affecting story about growing up gay and poor in the Christian south. Thanks to Stephen’s father, everyone knows about Simon, but no one, not even his best friend Tina, can really accept the truth. The novel is character driven, and much more about relationships than actions. None of these characters have it easy, so tensions run high. Nevertheless, the pacing lagged in places, plodding along before being pushed abruptly into action by conversations (which inevitably devolve into shouting matches) or events. There are long periods of tension, in which the reader must simply wait for something, or someone, to give. However, the plot was dark and real; Moynihan is not offering any pat solutions or easy answers, or much in the way of closure. The Waiting Tree is a somewhat bitter slice of life.