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When Love Comes to Town by Tom Lennon

Submitted by on March 1, 2013 – 4:30 amNo Comment

Author: Tom Lennon
Title: When Love Comes to Town
Release: March 1, 2013
Reviewer: Mona Leigh
Source: Publisher/NetGalley
Purchase: | Book Depository

The year is 1990, and in his hometown of Dublin, Ireland, Neil Byrne plays rugby, keeps up with the in-crowd at his school, and is just a regular guy. A guy who’s gay. It’s a secret he keeps from the wider world as he explores the city at night and struggles to figure out how to reveal his real self–and to whom.

First published in Ireland in 1993 and compared to The Catcher in the Rye by critics, Tom Lennon’s When Loves Comes to Town is told with honesty, humor, and originality.

The story is set Dublin, Ireland in 1992, just weeks before Neil finishes school and turns eighteen. He’s a popular guy, athletic, outgoing, and friends with the other popular kids. The youngest in his family, he has a sister who’s married with two small children, two older brothers who emigrated to America to work, and a sister who attends university and sneaks around to spend the night with her boyfriend. His mom and dad have big plans for him, but no one’s interested in what he wants out of life.

Neil knows he’s different from his friends. Hiding his true feelings behind a smile and quick wit, he dreams about a sixth year student named Ian. In those days before cell phones, internet, and GLBT groups, there’s little information and lots of prejudice. Simply figuring out how to approach life as a gay teen is a daunting undertaking.

One evening after having a little too much to drink, Neil confides in his best female friend, Becky, totally prepared for her to condemn him, but she surprises him by confiding that her older brother is gay and she’s in a relationship with a married man. Neil is both relieved and intrigued, wondering how Becky’s brother manages life as a gay man.

On his eighteenth birthday, Neil comes out to his sister Jackie and her boyfriend, Liam, only to learn Liam’s brother is gay. Jackie’s shocked, but hides it fairly well. As a birthday gift, they take Neil to a gay bar and the three of them make friends with some of the bar’s younger patrons.

Those reveals and encounters turn out to be the up side for Neil, because nothing else seems to go right for him and the loneliness he experiences is pervasive and overwhelming. When a group of homophobes attacks him in the street, nearly killing him, he’s almost relieved that he might die. He survives, barely, and we follow him as he comes out to his parents and friends.

The hatred and prejudice Neil experiences over the span of a few months is heartbreaking. His story is partially written as a stream of consciousness as we listen to his thoughts, feel his hurts, and rejoice as he experiences first love. We feel the overwhelming emotional distress that makes suicide seem like a viable option, forcing us to concentrate on breathing as we urge someone to hear his silent cries for help and love and acceptance.

This story will pull your emotions to the surface, spread them on the table, and lay waste to them. Your heart will ache for Neil, and you’ll want to wrap your arms around him and tell him everything will be okay if he can just hang on a little longer. You’ll wonder how anyone could bring a child into the world then deny them love because they’re different. But most of all, this beautifully written book will definitely make you think.

Mona's first grade teacher, Mrs. Stanford, gifted her with the love of reading. For that, she'll always live in her heart. But reading took over Mona's life, eclipsing everything but playing sports, and has continued to be a huge part of her life. Although she has always written poetry and stories for her self, last year she decided to try her hand at writing fiction. She is currently editing her first urban fantasy and hopes to have it ready for the agent by summer's end. Besides reading, Mona loves speed in the form of fast cars. The faster, the better! In her next life, she plans to drive race cars (or whatever happens to be their replacement in the future) all while reading and writing. She has also taken up rune reading, and find it to be disturbingly accurate and exciting.
Doll Mona Leigh