Affliction and Love
A bitingly self-aware debut
Dreaming Home by Lucian Childs is a beautiful and inspired “…queer coming-of-age—and coming-to-terms” multi-strand narrative, anchoring itself on Kyle to provide coherence, and intercutting independent stories of him together over four decades.
The devastating moment that will permeate all of Kyle’s relationships in the book is described in the first few pages by twelve-year-old Rachel, the storyteller in the first chapter. Along with her friend Tiana, Rachel was bullying her fifteen-year-old brother Kyle when she discovered and ran off with his sketches of nude men, eventually turning them into her parents. Kyle and Rachel’s father, a deeply religious, brutal military man, and former prisoner of war turned alcoholic in the 1970s, handles seeing these sketches with prescribed cruelty.
“… whaling on him. Not with the belt, like usual…”
“And though I pushed them out of my head, the images kept coming back – what our fathers must have done to people during the war.”
Each subsequent chapter is narrated by one of five different characters with the same intensity and honesty as the first. One by Kyle himself, and the others by someone observing him, from the time he is sent to a religious ‘conversion’ camp as a teen in Texas, until he abandons his partner decades later in California to build his dream home in Puerto Rico, along with his best friend.
Childs’ ruthlessly genuine depiction of Kyle through these narratives is illustrative of a smart and thoughtful engagement with the simultaneity of a person whose sense of self is moulded by their suffering.
“Okay, I get Kyle’s got a sweet deal down there, but to ditch you and my mother without warning? Seems pretty harsh. You ever get a bead on why he did it?”
By speaking in different voices throughout, rather than focusing wholly on Kyle’s story of him, who he is becoming, Childs has avoided letting Kyle slip into any long periods of self-flagellating rumination. Instead, Kyle and the people around him are portrayed as deeply complex, particularly when they share their thoughts on the way that Kyle’s traumas, and their own, have shaped their lives. They are resentful, loving, compassionate, confused, defensive and remorseful about their relationship with him. Consequently, Dreaming Home is a well-developed exploration into family, attachments, and the significance of being denied any sense of psychological safety. Or, rather, the possibility of home.
About the Author
Sarah Marie is a perfectly unqualified, no-talent, lit/poetry enthusiast. A ~literal nobody~ on social media, you may recognize her from commenting on your posts as if you sent them to her personally. She is very impressed by your dedication to your work and to each other, and she believes in you.