Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Book Review: "The Town of Babylon" by Alejandro Varela

This finalist for the 2022 National Book Award is an excellent, poignant look at growing up queer and non-white in suburbia.

When his father’s illness gets worse, Andrés returns to his suburban hometown. It will give him some time away from his husband so he can re-evaluate their marriage in the wake of his husband’s infidelity.

His return home happens to coincide with his 20-year high school reunion. He hasn’t any desire to attend, but with nothing else to do, he gives in. Immediately he is swept back into the memories of his time in high school, where he wasn’t always the nicest person in his quest to be popular.

At the reunion, he sees Jeremy, with whom he fooled around, to find that he is now married with children and a former convict and addict. He interacts with his high school bully and others, but he is struck by the absence of his best friend Simone, who struggles with mental illness.

While Andrés is home, he confronts his grief over his brother’s recent death, visits Simone in the mental hospital where she is receiving treatment, and deals with uncertainty around his marriage and his father’s illness.

I really loved this book and its exploration of many themes. Andrés isn’t always the most likable character but I identified with some of his emotions and actions. I’ve been meaning to read this for a while, so I’m really glad it’s so good!

1 comment:

  1. This one sounds fantastic. I love the idea of grappling with queer identity in the midst of your home town and past.