Reviewed by: BigAl
Approximate word count: 85-90,000 words
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A resident of the mountains of Eastern Utah where he lives with his wife and three children, this is Matthew Deane’s first book.
For more, visit Deane’s blog.
“West of Independence is the story of two brothers on distinct but inseparable journeys. Raised in a large Mormon family, the brothers find themselves at odds with their upbringing; Jared because he is gay, Matthew because he is too much like his father. As Jared fights to find happiness in a lifestyle he was raised to detest, Matthew struggles to become the man he wants to be without losing his faith. Overwhelmed by sadness, Jared decides to end his life by driving over the edge of the Grand Canyon. He makes it all the way from New Hampshire to Independence, Missouri, where his trip ends with a suicide attempt in a lonely motel room. Several months later, Matthew and Connor (their youngest brother) set out to complete Jared's trip to the Grand Canyon with him. Heading West from Independence, they pick cotton, take a walk on Mars, chase windmills, and meet a plastic eating cow, while at the same time repairing a relationship that has suffered from Matthew’s self-righteous attitude. West of Independence is an affecting tale of family conflict, the need to be loved, and the capacity for change.”
Unfortunately, many people from a Mormon family (or, to be fair, families raised in many other conservative religions) that include a gay or lesbian sibling are going to recognize many elements of Matthew Deane’s story. Those who don’t either have families much more enlighted than the norm, or aren’t being honest with themselves.
Deane’s story is well told and realistic (just because a story is true, doesn’t always mean it rings true). As I was thinking about the kind of reader who would benefit from reading West of Independence I realized that the appeal might be broader than I first thought. Many memoir readers choose to read stories from people unlike themselves to better understand views, thought processes, and experiences that are foreign to their world. Most people who fit this category would find this an interesting read. However, this story should especially appeal to anyone who has already been through a struggle like Deane’s (knowing you aren’t alone is always a positive). Those who need to go through the transformation that Deane experienced, but haven’t, might be the least likely to give this book a chance, but are the group who could benefit from it most of all.
A small number of typos and other proofing errors.
Rating: **** Four stars