But there are larger themes of forgiveness running throughout the book, primarily regarding Lito’s father and the priest; Lito and the priest; Lito and his father; Lito’s son and his father. “What does it mean to forgive somebody?” Lito asks himself, dissecting the question philosophically, theologically, politically. He may not find the precise answer, but his quest for it, in Go’s elegant and incisive prose, is perpetually captivating.
Children can be cruel, but what happens when a child’s taunting of her brother on one ordinary afternoon sets in motion the destruction of a family? Lucian Childs’s DREAMING HOME (Biblioasis, 221 pp., paperback, $22.95) opens when 12-year-old Rachel — along with a friend, Tiana — finds her 15-year-old brother, Kyle, sketching from a gay pornographic magazine. They all reside on Texas’s Fort Hood army base. Rachel and Kyle’s father, a Vietnam P.O.W., is a harsh disciplinarian, and though Rachel is conflicted about how to respond to Kyle’s drawing, somewhere between her conservative Christian upbringing and the girls’ adolescent penchant for mischief, she finds the courage to do the wrong thing: tattle. In response, Kyle’s father brutally beats him, then sends him away for conversion therapy.
The first two sections of the novel, written in the voices of youth, are eminently accomplished, often deliciously droll. When, in the first chapter, Tiana’s father asks Rachel to support his view that the girls are too young to date, Rachel thinks, “Hey, it’s freaking 1977: I am woman, hear me roar.” At Kyle’s queer re-education camp in the second section, psychological abuse is satirized, with the camp’s newlywed faith leader thanking the Lord “for he has given me natural affection for the woman,” to which the chapter’s narrator (who is another boy at the institution) earnestly thinks, “We want that with all our hearts, really, but it kind of grosses us out.”