Friday, August 27, 2010

Book Review: The Perfect Family by Kathryn Shay

The Perfect Family

The Perfect Family by Kathryn Shay

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Publish Date: September 14, 2010 (Amazon says it will have in stock August 30)
Paperback, 264 Pages

My Review:

Why I read this book: I love participating in Pump Up Your Books book tours and when I saw Kathryn Shay's name as one of the authors I really wanted to be a part.  I've read at least 3 of her books and enjoyed all of them and thought this book sounded interesting.

How is this book driven: Character all the way - the events are important, but what the characters do and go through is pivotal to the book.

My Thoughts:  The Perfect Family is a very impressive endeavor on Ms. Shay's part.  She has taken a subject that everyone knows about and most everyone has an opinion on, homosexuality and worked it out from all sides.  What would it be like for you as the mother of a son who figures out that he is gay and doesn't want to hide it?  What about for the father who is a strong proponent of the Catholic Church?.  What about the virile, attractive older brother who is a jock?  What about the boy himself and friends and other family members?  The amazing thing is Ms. Shay handles this with grace without portraying anyone as a bad guy (well except for a few true bigots in the story).  But most of the main characters aren't really sure what they should feel and fall into that gray area that I believe most of us are in.

First I should state I am a Christian, but I found Ms. Shay's book very thought-provoking and eye-opening.  I am one of those who truly believes we should love everyone so I really felt for Jaime in this book.  I felt for most of the main characters.  Ms. Shay did a great job developing the characters so they were multi-dimensional and their struggles felt very real.  I honestly felt I was alongside of each one going through the feelings with them.  They storyline grabbed me and didn't let me go.

I didn't feel like an agenda was being forced on me with this book either, I really felt it was there as a book to read and enjoy and maybe educate a little on the subject of loving those who are homosexuals and accepting them as part of society, not ostracizing them.  It is an absolutely beautiful and heartbreaking book.

The character I could most relate to was obviously the mother, Maggie, as I think most moms and most women can.  All she wants is everyone around here to be happy and she thinks she's the key to doing that.  What mom or woman doesn't think that?  I am struggling with it myself.  But the truth is one person cannot make the whole family happy, they all have to work together to do it.  I could also see Michael's point-of-view.  I am not Catholic, but the Methodist Church shares a lot of the same views, but I love that he was a balance, he struggled and was not a characterization of a heavy-handed Christian.  It was a struggle for him to take his beliefs and form them in with his life and the fact that his son was gay.

I just can't say enough about this book.  If you enjoy thought-provoking fiction along the lines of Jodi Picoult I think this is a book for you.  It's an amazing read and one I found hard to put down.

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

For more information on Kathryn Shay and this book, please see my tour post here.

FTC Information: I received this book from Pump Up Your Book Promotions for review.  I have Amazon links on my review pages but I do not make any money from these because of NC laws.  I put them solely for people to check out the books on a retail site.

Book Tour and Review: The Perfect Family by Kathryn Shay

The Perfect Family
Join Kathryn Shay, author of the women’s mainstream fiction novel, The Perfect Family (Boldstrokes Books), as she virtually tours the blogosphere in August & September ‘10 on her first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book!

*****My review will be coming later today.*****

About Kathryn Shay

Kathryn Shay is a lifelong writer. At fifteen, she penned her first ‘romance,’ a short story about a female newspaper reporter in New York City and her fight to make a name for herself in a world of male journalists – and with one hardheaded editor in particular. Looking back, Kathryn says she should have known then that writing was in her future. But as so often happens, fate sent her detouring down another path.
Kathryn ShayFully intending to pursue her dream of big city lights and success in the literary world, Kathryn took every creative writing class available at the small private women’s college she attended in upstate New York. Instead, other dreams took precedence. She met and subsequently married a wonderful guy who’d attended a neighboring school, then completed her practice teaching, a requirement for the education degree she never intended to use. But says Kathryn, “I fell in love with teaching the first day I was up in front of a class, and knew I was meant to do that.”
Kathryn went on to build a successful career in the New York state school system, thoroughly enjoying her work with adolescents. But by the early 1990s, she’d again made room in her life for writing. It was then that she submitted her first manuscript to publishers and agents. Despite enduring two years of rejections, she persevered. And on a snowy December afternoon in 1994, Kathryn Shay sold her first book to Harlequin Superromance.
Since that first sale, Kathryn has written twenty-five books for Harlequin, nine mainstream contemporary romances for the Berkley Publishing Group, and two online novellas, which Berkley then published in traditional print format. Her first mainstream fiction book will be out from Bold Strokes Books in September, 2010
Kathryn has become known for her powerful characterizations – readers say they feel they know the people in her books – and her heart-wrenching, emotional writing (her favorite comments are that fans cried while reading her books or stayed up late to finish them). In testament to her skill, the author has won five RT BookClub Magazine Reviewers Choice Awards, three Holt Medallions, two Desert Quill Awards, the Golden Leaf Award, and several online accolades.
Even in light of her writing success, that initial love of teaching never wavered for Kathryn. She finished out her teaching career in 2004, retiring from the same school where her career began. These days, she lives in upstate New York with her husband and two children. “My life is very full,” she reports, “but very happy. I consider myself fortunate to have been able to pursue and achieve my dreams.”
You can visit Kathryn’s website at

About The Perfect Family

The Perfect FamilyIn THE PERFECT FAMILY, seventeen-year old Jamie Davidson doesn’t think being gay should be such a big deal…until he comes out to his parents and friends. Even as Jamie celebrates no longer needing to hide his true self and looks forward to the excitement of openly dating another boy, the entire Davidson family is thrown into turmoil.
Jamie’s father Mike can’t reconcile his religious beliefs with his son’s sexuality. His brother Brian is harassed by his jock buddies and angry at Jamie for complicating all their lives. Maggie, his mother, fears being able to protect her son while struggling to save her crumbling marriage.  And Jamie feels guilty for the unhappiness his disclosure has caused.
What happens in their small town community, in the high school, in two churches–one supportive and one not—as well as among friends and relatives is vividly portrayed. Finally, every member of their “perfect family” must search their hearts and souls to reconnect with each other in this honest, heartwarming, and hopeful look at the redemptive power of love and family.

Read the Excerpt!

Maggie heard Jamie come into the laundry room, where she was trying to make headway with the family’s clothes. Turning, she saw him drop to sit on the step and got a look at his face. “You all right, honey?”
“Yeah.” Jamie gave her a fake smile. “I gotta talk to you.”
Her pulse rate sped up. Good news never followed that statement. She set the shirt on the washing machine and leaned against it. “Shoot.”
“I have a date Friday night.”
“That’s good, isn’t it?”
“I think so.” His gaze locked with hers. “I hope you do, too.”
“Of course I do. Can we meet her?”
“It’s not a her, Mom. It’s a him.”
“A him?” She stared at her son blankly. The sound of the refrigerator across the room, the ticking of the clock on the wall seemed unnaturally loud. When realization hit, her mother’s heart tightened in her chest. “You have a date with a boy.”
A long pause. “It’s okay, isn’t it?”
Please God let me handle this right. After a moment of speechlessness, she said, “O-of course it is.”
Jamie’s fingers tightened on their dog Buck’s collar. Suddenly, her son seemed smaller, more fragile in his jeans and sweatshirt.
Maggie crossed to him, knelt down and took both of his hands in hers. His were freezing cold. “Honey, you know there’s nothing you could ever tell me, ever do or feel that would make me love you less.”
A frown. “Yeah, I know that.”
Well, she’d done this right. At least he knew her love was unconditional. But oh my God…the ramifications of his admission were far reaching.
“I just…I don’t want this to make you sad. Especially now that you’re so happy about Aunt Caroline.” He glanced down at the linoleum, then back to her again. “Are you upset?”
“That you’re gay?”
You have no idea. “No, honey. I love you for who you are.”
“Do you feel bad?”
How honest could she be? With Jamie and herself?
“Only that you didn’t tell me sooner.” Not quite the whole truth, but part of it. The easier part. Again, she thought of all they’d shared. Yet, dear Lord, he hadn’t told her something so vital to who he was. The notion made her stomach cramp.
“There wasn’t any need to tell you. I never wanted to date before. Now I do, which is why I said something today.”
“I guess I can accept that.” Later, she knew, his withholding would haunt her. Pushing away the selfish thought, she cleared her throat. “Does anybody else know?”
His expression was wry. “The guy I’m going on a date with.”
“Who is it?”
“Luke Crane.”
Her jaw dropped open. “Luke Crane? Your brother’s teammate?”
“Ma,” he said, sounding like the adult in the situation. “One out of every ten people is gay.”
She’d knew the stats, had brushed up on them for a section of Psyche 102 she taught.
“Even jocks.”
“I know. I never suspected it about him, though.”
“Did you, about me?”
Maggie had had some concerns. Once or twice she’d brought them up to Mike. The discussion always upset him, so she kept her worry to herself. One night, though, over a bottle of Merlot, she’d confessed her fears about her son to her best friend Gretta. She’d sensed all along Jamie was different, but in the end she decided the best course of action was to let Jamie tell her when he was ready. “I had some suspicions, Jame.”
“Why? Because there were no girls in the picture?”
And because he’d been interested in theater, and then started hanging out with a group from the plays. Paul and Nick were gay, she knew from Jamie himself. Also, Jamie had no desire to participate in sports beyond a brief stint at diving. Stereotypical thinking, which embarrassed her, but it had been there nonetheless.
Maggie moved to sit next to her son on the step. Buck compensated by lying at their feet. “Does Brian know? About you or Luke?”
“Did you tell any of your friends? Julianne?”
“No, definitely not her. She’s so right wing Christian, Mom, I can’t talk to her anymore. Especially about something like this.”
“I’m sorry.” Maggie knew she shouldn’t ask, but like prodding a toothache with your tongue, or taking off a Band-Aid to check a wound, she couldn’t leave this alone. “Did you talk to an adult, honey?”
“Um, yeah. Ms. Carson.”
A sudden prick of tears, which she mercilessly battled back. He’d told another grown woman and not his mother. “H-has she helped you?”
“Yeah. A lot.”
“That’s good.”
“Luke and I aren’t gonna hide being together, Mom. We’re not gonna broadcast our dating either, but kids will find out.”
She groped around her mind for the mother role, one she usually fell into so easily. “How close are you two, Jamie?”
“We’ve been hanging out since the Valentine’s Dance. We got to be friends, then it turned into more.”
“Are you happy?”
He nodded. “My first boyfriend.” His expression turned sappy and Maggie’s heart ached and rejoiced at the same time. Then anger took over–that he’d been deprived of this normal adolescent feeling for so long. “It’s fun, Mom.”
“Good for you, honey.”
They talked about the times Jamie had seen Luke and his giddy feeling was even more evident, making it easier not to think about all he hadn’t shared with her.
After a half-hour, she glanced at the clock. Mike would be home soon. So she was forced to bring up the mechanics of dealing with what Jamie told her. “How do you plan to handle this at home? With the family?”
“Brian’s gotta know before anybody at school finds out. I’ll tell him. You tell Dad.”
Which they both knew would be the hardest part of all this.
Mike’s love for his son was deep. But how on God’s earth was he ever going to reconcile Jamie’s homosexuality with the Catholic religion? He was so single-minded about the church. The thought of how his attitude would influence this huge benchmark in their lives terrified Maggie. She squeezed Jamie’s arm and left her hand there, more for herself than him. “Dad will want to talk to you about all this.”
“I know.”
“What about the rest of the family?”
Since he was a baby, Jamie always got this certain expression on his face when he was troubled. Maggie could read it like a neon sign. “No.”
“I don’t want to announce to anyone I’m gay, Mom.”
“What does that mean?”
“That I’m a son, a brother, a friend and an actor, not just a gay man.”
“I understand that.”
“And you didn’t feel the need to announce to anybody that Brian’s straight, did you?”
How wise he was for sixteen. Of course, he’d had time to think this out. And she was still reeling about the effect his disclosure would have on Mike. On all their lives.
“All right. I can abide by that wish, until it’s time for people to know.”
Like Brian’s graduation party, a few months away, if Jamie decided to bring Luke as his date. There were several possibly homophobic people in their lives.
A half-grin from her son. “We’ll tell people on a need-to-know basis.” Standing, he reached out a hand to her. She took it and prayed he didn’t feel hers trembling. When she got to her feet, she hugged him. He held on longer than usual. “I love you, Mom.”
“I love you, too.”
“Come on, Bucky,” he said to the dog, and they both disappeared down the hallway. She heard his feet pound on the steps, the bathroom door close and Buck bark at being left outside.
Dazed, Maggie picked up Mike’s shirt and stared down at it unseeingly. Her heart thudded in her chest as the ramifications of Jamie being gay flooded her. She picked up the stain spray to apply more to cuff, but dropped the can to the floor. Gripping the shirt to her chest, she swallowed hard.
“Stop it Maggie,” she said aloud. This wasn’t a tragedy. If Jamie had a terminal illness, or hit somebody while driving and killed them, or was into drugs that would be a tragedy. His sexual orientation was a simple fact of life.
Forcing herself to move, she put the white clothes in the washer, but random images bombarded her: Brian teasing Jamie about not having a girlfriend…Jamie’s dislike of proms… discussions about having kids, and Jamie saying he wanted some. She thought about Brigadoon. Her son was a boy who’d never experienced longing for the opposite sex but he always played the romantic, heterosexual lead in the plays he loved so much. What had that been like for him?
Her heart ached for her child—what he’d gone through alone, and what he would still go through, even in this day and age. In bigger cities, gay kids were more accepted, but Sherwood was different. And she knew the shattering statistics on gay teen suicide—three times higher than others in the age group.
After she closed the machine’s lid, she went to leave the laundry room, but instead, slid to the floor and wrapped her arms around her waist, trying to squelch her negative thoughts—like the wish to go back to how her life was an hour ago. Like the wish that…no, she wouldn’t even think about that. It took her a while but she won the battle and chose instead to figure out how she could help her son. And her husband.
With Buck at his heels, Jamie took the stairs two at a time. He catapulted into the bathroom, slammed the door and lowered the toilet seat. Dropping down onto it, he buried his face in his hands.
Breathe in, breathe out. Again. And again.
When his stomach settled and he didn’t feel like he was going to hurl, he stood and crossed to the sink in front of the mirror. He looked the same. Too skinny. Great hair, now that it was longer, normal nose. Eyes that, some cheerleader had told him, could get him into any girl’s pants. Showed how much she knew. But as he stared at his reflection, he sensed he wasn’t the same and never would be after what just happened in the laundry room.
He’d told her! Finally, after years of self-doubt that made him sick to his stomach, and when that passed, months of feeling like he was going to bust open from the inside if he didn’t let go of his secret, he found the courage to tell her. Luke’s last text message said, If you do, I will. They’d made a pact to approach both their mothers today.
But, oh God, he’d upset her, this woman who’d been the most important person in his life. He could see it in her face, always filled with gentle love and an acceptance most kids couldn’t fathom.
Typical of her, she’d tried to be brave. She said the right things. Yet he knew her almost as well as she knew him and what he’d revealed would cause her worry and pain. He’d pretended he was good, too, that he hadn’t had sleepless nights over who he was, hadn’t gone through stages of self-loathing and recriminations. He was, after all, an actor. And he had come out on the other side, had accepted who he was. Rejoiced in it, even. Finding Luke just brought it all together.
Still, this step was done. Finally, finally done.
After throwing some water on his face, Jamie opened the door and made his way to his own room. Flopping on the bed, with Buck leaping to the foot of it, he checked his text messages. None. He was dying to know how it went with Luke, who was scared shitless of his parents. But like Jamie, being gay had gotten too big to keep inside any more. It took too much energy to keep the door closed on a closet full of secrets. How would Luke’s Mom and Dad handle it? Would they explode, say awful things that could never be taken back? Luke feared the latter, and having gotten to know the Cranes in the last few weeks, Jamie expected the worst.
Linking his hands behind his head, staring up at the ceiling, he thought about his mom again. She hadn’t said any of those awful things and she never would. She’d deal with his being gay and any problems that caused inside her and make his coming out easier for him. Yet Jamie wasn’t out of the woods. Brian would freak, and Jamie would have to smooth over not telling his brother sooner. But it was his Dad’s potential reaction that woke Jamie up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. Because of the church he belonged to and the religion he embraced, his own father could reject him. His Dad might say those things he could never take back.
And Jamie didn’t know what he’d do if that happened.
Probably sensing tension in him, Buck barked and moved in to nuzzle him. Jamie petted the dog for a while, then grabbed his phone and sent a text saying, So, how’d it go telling your parents?
After a while there was a chime. I couldn’t do it, Jamie. Maybe we should both wait.
Jamie’s hand curled around the cell. “Now you tell me.”
Disappointment shot through him, harsh and acute. When he got past it, he messaged Luke that it was okay, he should wait until he was ready. But it wasn’t okay, really. The plan was to share the joy of coming out to their parents. He wanted to share everything with Luke.
“Shit!” he said aloud. Bolting up, he knew he had to get out what he was feeling, so he went to the desk, to his journal, which was the only place he’d been honest for months. Once again, he poured his heart out on the pages. Alone
I am alone in this.
I didn’t think I would be.
He promised he would tell.
It was too much for him.
Fear mixes with joy.
Joy colludes with hope.
Hope brings about expectation.
Was he wrong to have told all?
His real self speaks:
No, no, no.
It’s right. No matter what.
Right to be the person you are.
Isn’t it?

More Books by Kathryn (partial list):

Kathryn1Kathryn 2Kathryn 3Kathryn 4Kathryn 6Kathryn 7Kathryn 8Kathryn 9Kathryn 10Kathryn 12Kathryn 13Kathryn 14
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The Perfect Family Tour Schedule

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Monday, August 2
Book reviewed at Colloquium
Tuesday, August 3
Book reviewed at Always With a Book
Wednesday, August 4
Book spotlighted at Examiner
Friday, August 6
Book reviewed at Rundpinne
Monday, August 9
Book reviewed at Marta’s Meanderings
Tuesday, August 10
Interviewed at Literarily Speaking
Friday, August 13
Interviewed at Review From Here
Tuesday, August 17
Guest blogging at Susan Wiggs
Thursday, August 19
Interviewed at Personovelty
Friday, August 20
Interviewed at The Writer’s Life
Monday, August 23
Guest blogging at Writing Daze
Tuesday, August 24
Interviewed at A Book and a Chat Radio Show
Wednesday, August 25
Interviewed at The Hot Author Report
Thursday, August 26
Guest blogging at The Book Connection
Friday, August 27
Book reviewed at My Reading Room
Tuesday, September 7
Interviewed at Examiner
Wednesday, September 8
Guest blogging at The Writer’s Life
Thursday, September 9
Interviewed at Beyond the Books
Friday, September 10
Guest blogging at The Book Boost
Monday, September 13
Interviewed at Pump Up Your Book
Tuesday, September 14
Interviewed at As the Pages Turn
Wednesday, September 15
Guest blogging at Literarily Speaking
Thursday, September 16
Interviewed at Blogcritics
Monday, September 20
Guest blogging at Running with Quills
Book reviewed at Fictionary
Tuesday, September 21
Guest blogging at Gelati’s Scoop
Wednesday, September 22
Guest blogging at Literarily Speaking
Thursday, September 23
Interviewed at Broowaha
Friday, September 24
Interviewed at Working Writers
Monday, September 27
Guest blogging at As the Pages Turn
Tuesday, September 28
Book reviewed at Fictionary
Thursday, September 30
Guest blogging at The Story Behind the Book
Book reviewed at Write for a Reader