The Sin-Eater's Confession (Goodreads | Amazon) is a very dark and disturbing book. Not because of ghosts or horror, but because the realism and prejudice represented. The book is mostly internal dialogue, following the story of Ben who witnessed his friend Jimmy's murder. Nobody knows he was a witness and he can't bring himself to tell anyone. So he struggles with what he saw alone.
According to everybody in town Jimmy was murdered because he was gay. Not that anyone really knew, but everyone suspected. There were also rumors about Ben and Jimmy, those were untrue, but they made Ben question himself and what he remembered about their friendship. This book isn't just about discrimination and homosexuality, but has an excellent commentary about the nature of how we "know" things and gossip.
You know how they say no two people read the same book? For me this book is personal. In 2006 my 15-year-old cousin committed suicide. He way gay. (He was also bipolar which people like to de-emphasize). Losing someone to suicide is one of the worst things I've ever experienced. But the local media (who don't normally cover suicides but because they'd done an article about Josh earlier in the year covered his) made my cousin into the poster child for gay-suicide, boiling down a very complicated person with complicated problems to only his sexuality.
What made this harder was that Josh told me he was gay when he was nine. Except he didn't say, "I'm gay." He said he thought he'd been born wrong; that he should've been a girl. I was 14 (I think, maybe 13, maybe 15) at the time. I didn't understand. I just thought it was something strange Josh was saying (for the record this was not denial but extreme naiveté on my part). But it stuck in the back of my mind. When Josh died I was away at college and didn't really know what was happening in his life but that scene kept replaying in my head over and over again. I can still see it. We were sitting on top of a jungle gym at a campground. He was crying and then told me (Yes I still replay that moment).
This book is not about suicide. Jimmy is murdered. But there are a lot of parallels between my experience with Josh's death and Ben's experience with Jimmy's. Everything from Jimmy trying to confess a secret (he seemed to be telling Ben he was gay but that's just speculation as the book points out) and Ben not understanding, to the media trying to make Jimmy into a poster child for discrimination, to all the self-doubt and questions in the aftermath, all the moments you replay over and over again.
The voice in this book is very compelling. I instantly connected and related to the main character. I felt what he felt, probably partially because of my experience but also because the feelings expressed in the book are correct and authentic. Ben struggles with Jimmy's death, his friendship with Jimmy and what that means about him, the rumors and guilt over not saving Jimmy.
The Sin-Eater's Confession does not hold back. It's terrible, descriptive and I had to set the book down on many occasions. But it's a book that shouldn't hold back. It's Ben's coping mechanism, his confession of everything he saw and the details he remembers. He's trying to understand what happened, trying to sort it out. Anything else would feel less truthful. Despite the gruesome events that are very very vividly described I couldn't stop reading. Near the end the book slowed, losing some of it's momentum, but overall it was a very satisfying read and meaningful novel.
Because I like this book so much I'm going to give away a copy! This is my first giveaway so be patience with me. Here are some rules.
- Open to U.S. Residents only. Sorry world I'm starting small.
- Contest runs two weeks (meaning it ends March 13)
- Cheaters will be disqualified. (Just ask my young cousin who tried to cheat in a cornhole match. I'm staunch on rules).
- The winner will have 48 hrs to respond or I'll select a new winner.
- Please follow the rafflecopter instructions. I don't want to go on a scavenger hunt for your email address.