Emotionally heart wrenching, with a troubling look at the past treatment of people with mental illness, this thought-provoking story will stay with me for a very long time.
William Lyon has fought accepting his homosexuality his entire life. His deeply religious parents, who believed it to be wrong and unacceptable, went so far as to send him to conversion therapy. In trying to do what he thought was the right thing, he married a nice enough woman. Unfortunately, after 6 years of marriage, he finally accepted that he is gay and got divorced.
In order to work on his dissertation on memory, and due to his lack of a place to live, he takes a job as a caretaker at a mental institution. While working there, he discovers a tin box filled with letters from one of the patients. What unfolds is a devastating story of one man’s love for another man, and the despicable treatment he received by those trying to “cure” him. William reads each letter over a period of several months. During that time, his life is slowly mirroring many of the same concepts from the letters.
William, a very subdued but extremely kind person, meets Colby Anderson, one of the most jubilant people he has ever met. Colby is an amazing, sweet, and fun person. In addition to taking care of his grandparents, he also helps run their store. William and Colby form a wonderful friendship, and then start to become something more. I loved William and Colby and all of their interactions. These two were meant for each other and fit together perfectly.
There were some steamy scenes, but most of it was pretty mild. The epilogue at the end was truly beautiful and believable. In addition to the box of tissues I went through every single time William read a letter, I had to find a few extras for the happy tears at the end.
A truly memorable love story which also reflects on a history that I hope never repeats itself.
Originally reviewed for The Romance Reviews. Complimentary copy provided by author/publisher for an honest review.
William Lyon’s past forced him to become someone he isn’t. Conflicted and unable to maintain the charade, he separates from his wife and takes a job as caretaker at a former mental hospital. Jelley’s Valley State Insane Asylum was the largest mental hospital in California for well over a century, but it now stands empty. William thinks the decrepit institution is the perfect place to finish his dissertation and wait for his divorce to become final. In town, William meets Colby Anderson, who minds the local store and post office. Unlike William, Colby is cute, upbeat, and flamboyantly out. Although initially put off by Colby’s mannerisms, William comes to value their new friendship, and even accepts Colby’s offer to ease him into the world of gay sex.
William’s self-image begins to change when he discovers a tin box, hidden in an asylum wall since the 1940s. It contains letters secretly written by Bill, a patient who was sent to the asylum for being homosexual. The letters hit close to home, and William comes to care about Bill and his fate. With Colby’s help, he hopes the words written seventy years ago will give him courage to be his true self.