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Does gender really matter?
Kel and Toni are damaged people trying to find answers. While Kel pins his hopes on support groups to keep him on the straight and narrow, Toni looks for absolution in a bottle of Mexican hormone pills.
Kel loves Toni obsessively, and though he supports them on the money he makes turning tricks with strangers and regular clients, he struggles with the reality of Toni’s transition and her motives for doing it.
While Kel grapples with his worries and the attentions of regular client Michael—otherwise known as the Sherbet Pervert—Toni faces different problems. Danielle, a transgender woman, best friend and role model to Toni, thinks Kel is a bad influence and pushes Toni to leave him. But Toni holds off because deep down, she knows she’s not like Danielle.
Kel and Toni’s desperate attempts to build a life together make them realize their survival is precarious. And then two unrelated events show them how easily their harsh little world can crumble, bringing them confront some difficult truths.
”It is true; words are just words, but the meanings they carry, the way the world bends around them, that’s what’s complicated.”
The three of us read Filth 9 months ago and we couldn’t let the revised version be released without buddy reading it and gushing about it again!
It’s 5 stars all over again, which doesn’t mean that it is perfect (what is?). It means that we love it so much that we don’t care, that we love every single word of it, that we were given characters who will stay with us for a long time, and so so much emotion!
Kel and Toni are already an established couple when the story begins. The road to the happy ending (more an HFN) is not about following a plot that will get them together, but about spending some time in their minds and sharing their journey at the rate of 2 trains of thoughts that sometimes drag and mull over, sometimes get frantic with worry, sometimes fly with pleasure and joy. It is well and truly about words. Words and how we use them to define ourselves and our perceived roles in life. Words to think differently with, to see underneath and farther.
The author’s voice is strong in telling Kel and Toni; it doesn’t act as a barrier though. On the contrary, the language knows how to be in turn beautiful and blunt, it shades and lights up, deepens and amplifies, provides a denseness of thoughts and a wide range of emotions that owes nothing to unbridled angst and everything to restraint and intensity.
“[…] feel like the person in the mirror was the same person who was watching the reflection. Thinking the small voice in the dark, the one that whispers “I am”, would make itself known as more than just “I”, and become something the rest of the world could see, and believe in”
It tells gender fluidity with ever-changing pronouns, tells the pain of being unable to define oneself as dictated, the gross and scary reality of living on tricks, fears, the beauty in being able to love no matter what, the courage to love despite the fears, to be oneself, to face what the world throws at you.
Filth is about gender. It has the good taste and common sense to question and study more than answering, and it is almost incidentally so, as it is defined in the end by unconditional love and courage. Just like its characters.
Filth is not a romance, but it is one hell of a love story! One to marvel at and be envious of.
“He just takes Toni as he is, and makes every little piece of him feel loved”