To some extent, each book you read leaves its mark on you. Well, good books certainly do. As a reader, every once in a while, you come across a book which moves you completely, shatters your world, makes you question humanity and may even change you in a way. To me, The Tin Box
is one such book. It is the kind of book which makes me incredibly grateful to have a passion for reading and it is a book I will not forget soon, maybe ever.
When I read the blurb for The Tin Box
, I knew right away that I would love it. I mean, it contains some things I really enjoy...
Abandoned insane asylum - check
Incredible MCs - check
Letters from the past - check
Interesting plot - check
Great writing - check
So, yeah, I expected it to be good. But man, I wasn't expecting this. It completely blew me away. This book played with my emotions, made me laugh, cry and even loathe my status as a human being at times, because of the cruelty thrust upon people who didn't deserve to be treated like that. What's more, I'm quite aware of the fact that most of the treatments discussed are or were real. My fingers are itching to do more research on the subject, but I think I need to wait a while before I do that.
This story was sad, dark and utterly heartbreaking. But in spite of all that, it portrayed beauty, the gift of second chances and hope. Kim Fielding managed to masterfully combine all of these factors and created an AMAZING story of loss, struggle, pain, new beginnings, love, happiness and ultimately, redemption (in a non-religious way).Warning: The next part of the review is pretty spoilerish, so read at your own risk.
William Lyon is a man who has lived his life in fear. His parents are the religious-driven type and when he was young, he confessed to being attracted to men, which has led to William being forced to go through therapy and various type of treatment meant to cure him. Of course, being made to think his urges were a sin has only lead to William being a thirty-something repressed adult. He has married a woman, played the role of the heterosexual husband for 6 years, but when things weren't working out, he came clean to his wife and she asked for a divorce.
Shortly after, William accepts the job as a caretaker at the Jelley’s Valley State Insane Asylum. He plans to write his dissertation there and is looking forward to a summer spent in solitude and peace. Strange enough, the mental asylum is not all that creepy, being rather incredibly sad. One day, while William is exploring the massive building, he goes into the room next to his apartment. That's where he finds the tin box, hidden into the wall, and he reluctantly opens it, only to find letters written by a former patient.
At the beginning of 1938, Bill has been admitted to the mental institution by his parents, the reason being to cure him of homosexuality. The letters are written to his lover, Johnny, and have, of course, never been sent. Every single word the man wrote pulled at my heartstrings. And his last letter pretty much ripped my heart out and made me SO angry. The procedures Bill had been suffering from were inhumane and they made me sick. These letters are what help William realize how lucky he is to be able to get a second chance, discover who he really is and live his life according to his wishes. They give him courage.
The first time William goes into the town of Jelley's Valley, he stops at the local store, where he meets Colby. Oh, how I loved that guy; he just lighted up this entire book. Colby Anderson is a local who's cheerful, easy-going, funny, true to himself, out, proud and flamboyant. He doesn't care what anyone thinks of him and he makes it his duty to introduce Will to the wonderful world of gay sex. His ultimate goal, though, is to help William figure out what he wants in life. Honestly, I fell in love with Colby since the very first word he uttered and I admired his optimism, which he stuck to despite having had a difficult life. He was just fabulous!
All in all, The Tin Box
offered a fantastic reading experience. It deeply moved me and I strongly recommend it to everyone!Some of my favorite quotes:
"Four months from closeted to fabulous! We've already made a good start at it today." Colby gestured toward the laptop, which was enough to make William blush slightly. At least the sunburn probably hid it this time.
"You want me to watch more online porn?" asked William.
"That can be your homework. Drop by the store tomorrow to pick up some more romance novels–that's extra credit. But I think we're going to need to branch out a little more."
"Gay people aren't supposed to settle down?"
"Gay people are supposed to do whatever the fuck feels right to them, just like straight people! If you wanna get married and have kids, great. If you wanna screw everything on two legs, just make sure you're safe. If you wanna wear a pink tutu, vote Republican, and drive around in a Mack truck, that's your own damn business!" His voice had risen, but now he smiled sheepishly. "Sorry. I get carried away."
"God, and here I am preaching at you, as if you haven't had enough of that already. Sorry."
"I don't mind. You're better than Pastor Reynolds any day."
"I bet Pastor Reynolds didn't have dimples and an ass like this." Colby waggled the body part in question before slapping William on the arm. "I'm starved. Didn't you promise to feed me?"
Colby tipped against him. "Blood. I told you I'm a complete wuss about it."
"You'll want to avoid the Surgery Channel then."
Setting the remote on William's lap, Colby sighed. "I hereby promote you to Clicker-in-Chief. Anything but blood."
"Nothing I haven't seen before, baby boy. Let's go."
Colby waited impatiently as William took off everything except his boxers, which made Colby snort dismissively. "Those are totally not giving your ass its due, Wills. You got a nice little butt. You oughtta show it off. And you probably come by it naturally. I gotta work my glutes like mad to achieve this perfection." He slapped himself on the ass, and William tried not to stare. It was a very nice ass.
"You are a good man, Will. You're smart and kind and gentle and thoughtful and... and cute as a button. And you're one of the most moral people I've ever met. If your parents can't see that, they're blind and stupid. They're crazier than any of these guys." Colby waved his arms to indicate the room's many files.
"It's part of my master plan to get over you by stalking you, torturing myself, and getting run over by trucks."
"And... how's that going?"
"Everything's right on schedule so far. Except the getting over you part."
"Those are my clothes."
Colby cocked his head to the side. "They look really silly on you."
"I'm not a total dance whore?"
"You're... Will, what the hell are you doing?"
"Making a speech. So shut up."
Colby blinked at him, very nearly grinned, and then leaned back in the chair. He gave William a go ahead gesture.
William cleared his throat. "Okay. I did research. I watched porn and I went back to the Stockyard. I gathered a significant amount of data, and I can assume with less than a point-oh-five margin of probability of error that my conclusion is sound. I'm rejecting the null hypothesis, Colby. You are my type."
"Shh. Not done yet." William hadn't prepared for this at all, but it was much more important to him than his dissertation defense had been. "You are my type. And I have also concluded, after further consideration, that I love you. I think maybe you love me too–the preliminary data support those results–but we'll need future research to explore that."
"I do," Colby whispered.
William's heart soared. "Well, see? Another hypothesis confirmed."
"But I told you. You need to look around." Colby narrowed his eyes and pointed accusingly. "I bet you haven't slept with a single other guy!"
"I got groped by a couple of them at the Stockyard."
"You gave me a speech, not long after we met. You said gay people–any people–should be who they really are. Be authentic. You said I should wear a pink tutu and vote Republican if that's what I wanted. Well, I'll pass on that part. But Colby, this is me. I'm not a man who sleeps around, always wondering if the ass is greener on the other side of the fence. I'm not someone who wants to meet tons of men in clubs or online. Those things don't suit me any better than this outfit." He gestured at his borrowed shirt. "I turned thirty-three today. I may be newly out of the closet but I'm not a kid. I wasted enough time trying to be William Lyon, heterosexual. I'm ready to be Will Lyon, gay. Partner of Colby Anderson. That's who I really am."
Yes, I just took the time to write all those quotes down. And I'm not even sorry!
ETA: Kim Fielding has posted some photos of the asylum which inspired the one in the book. Here's a link to her blog post...