Erryn reviews ‘Atonement Camp for Unrepentant Homophobes’ by Evan J. Corin. The book was published on September 17, 2020, 356 pgs. The audio was released January 5, 2021, was narrated by Christopher Solon and is 6hrs and 46mins.
Why I read this book: I’m always game to try a new author.
The oldest translation of a gospel is returned to the world by a secret society long dedicated to its preservation. In it, Jesus explicitly condemns bigotry and homophobia. In a new world in which LGBTQ passengers receive preferential boarding for flights and the United States has elected its first lesbian president, Pastor Rick Harris is stalwart, closeted preacher who doggedly holds on to his increasingly unpopular convictions.
When an incendiary sermon goes too far and offends an influential family, Rick makes a painful choice to keep his job: He attends an atonement camp run by drag queens for society’s most unrepentant and terminally incurable homophobes.
Atonement Camp is immersion therapy for Pastor Harris, and it might be working. An open bar with pedicures, a devastatingly attractive roommate, and an endless supply of glitter help him manage to make new friends. Soon, Rick and his cohorts learn the camp may hold its own secrets. Amid the smiling faces and scantily clad pool boys who staff the camp, a clandestine group plots to discredit the New Revelation and everything it stands for.
If Rick has the conviction to confront his own hypocrisy, he might be able to uncover the conspirators with help from his adopted flock – and find new truths within himself.
CONTENT WARNING: This novel addresses issues related to the infliction of emotional abuse by a homophobic parent who suspects his son to be a homosexual. Separately, while not the author’s intent, some readers may interpret the story’s attempt to confront issues of religious hypocrisy as an assault on religion itself. No such conclusion is intended. Lastly, the novel follows a protagonist who, at times, uses hateful slurs to refer to members of the LGBTQ community. Such language is intended to give authenticity to a self-hating, closed member of that same community. Readers may appreciate the protagonist’s growth as he embraces his sexuality and reconciles himself with his faith.
I wanted to like this book. I liked the premise, enjoy the concept of speculative fiction, and am a huge audiobook fan. I also love cheering new authors.
In some respects, this book was a let-down.
Let me start with the narration. I urge you to listen to the sample. What irritated me might not be an issue for you. Christopher Solon spoke each sentence on top of the next one. He didn’t appear to take a breath, and I scrambled to keep up. There was never a pause to transition between paragraphs so sometimes I struggled to figure out who was speaking. Now, like I said, you might not have a problem with this. For me, it impacted my enjoyment.
Okay, so the story. I liked the premise. Instead of a conversion camp where homosexuals are forced to pray the gay away – and thereby become straight, Pastor Ricky is sent to a conversion camp where homophobes are exposed to all the wonderful aspects of a gay lifestyle and are encourage to change their bigoted ways.
For the most part, this worked. Ricky had particular reasons for being homophobic (including learned behavior) and he had a ton of baggage to unpack. But with his other classmates, he began to open his eyes. To discover maybe he was wrong. To heal and become his true self.
There was humor in this book (I mean who’s not going to laugh at the priest inhaling organic vegan glitter?), there’s poignancy (Ricky meets someone from his past to whom he owes a huge apology), and there’s redemption (Bob, a fellow classmate, accepts his trans daughter).
I know some readers who will enjoy this book, and I would encourage them to give it a try. Just make sure you listen to the audio sample as this might be a book best enjoyed on paper.
Evan is a member of the LGBTQ community who fancies himself as a playboy socialite, living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Between work and lucid moments of sobriety, he writes a little. His debut novel is a light-hearted work that still manages to confront religious hypocrisy and contemporary LGBTQ struggles to balance their loss of culture with new-found civil rights.