This review first appeared on Fourth & Sycamore.
“Farming and God were two industries by which family fortune might flourish or fail in Fort Sackville.”
Fort Sackville, Indiana, the setting for J. Patrick Redmond’s novel Some Go Hungry, could be any small town in America. It could be the one I live in now. It could be yours. In the novel, it’s a simple place where families go to church every Sunday, and then go to the Daniels’ Family Buffet immediately after church, week after week after week. It is not the place you probably want to live if you’re different, especially if you’re gay. The novel’s main character, of course, is.
Grey Daniels is the son of the Family Buffet’s owners, and he’s lived in Fort Sackville his entire life except for a short stint in Miami with his boyfriend at the time. His father’s health is failing, and Grey now runs his family’s restaurant that has been a town institution for three generations. He’s gay, and while he doesn’t hide it, it not a thing he makes much noise about either. While there are whispers about him in the town, respect for his parents keeps it from getting any louder until an old class mate returns to town as the hotshot youth pastor of a large local church. This wouldn’t be a big deal except that this testosterone-drunk, alpha male minister with a wife and kids just happens to have been one of Grey’s lovers in high school.
When Grey’s best employee, a young man with a gifted singing voice, comes out to him, Grey suggests he come out to his parents as well. They do not take it well, and, under this new pastor’s guidance, they send the young man away to a facility to help him overcome his “problem.” They also blame Grey for perverting their son, and Grey’s reputation–and that of his family and their restaurant–begins crumbling.
J. Patrick Redmond has crafted an involving story full of believable and sympathetic characters. I couldn’t help but think of Mason Stokes’s Saving Julian from 2015, with its similar look at the harm of Christian gay conversion ministries and the confused (and often closeted) men behind them.
Some Go Hungry has some flaws. The dialogue often feels a bit forced, and is used to convey information to the reader rather than to truthfully provide insight into the characters’ inner lives, leading to conversations that feel false and convenient at times. Overall, the novel lacks some polish. But the story itself is a unique look at living as a queer person in a place that still uses that term as a slur, and the characters are real and we feel deeply for them.