…we're keeping our name but expanding our offerings!
Daren Boothe’s most significant secret centers on an unlikely object: a xylophone. That secret led him to develop his professional alter-ego, a sensual, androgynous dancer. When Dare begins his second (and considerably more wholesome) job playing clarinet in a polka band, he meets a young man who takes his grandmother out dancing. But Dare knows the man has his own secret.
Jonah Day immediately recognizes the clarinetist. Three years earlier they crossed paths in a therapist’s office, but they both abandoned that route to mental health. Neither was ready then to open up about the psychological traumas that haunted them.
In an attempt to heal their wounds, Dare and Jonah turn to each other. Understanding and empathy come instantly, accompanied by ambivalence about their growing attraction. But the repercussions of victimization are many. Soon, the very experiences Dare and Jonah share threaten to drive them apart.
It’s interesting…with all the discussion going around these days about the pros & cons of ‘content warnings’, I happen upon a book that touched on topics highly emotional for me and my past and that I wasn’t expecting…and led to a sleepless night, nightmares, and a weekend wasted with tears. Would I have read this book if I had known? Nope. Am I glad that I did? Actually…nope. I’m a bit traumatized, to be honest, but I’m glad that this book…exists. I can see how it would be helpful and therapeutic for some. In this circumstance, I most assuredly would have appreciated some kind of warning. If it weren’t for some of the reader-selected genres in Goodreads and some of the reviews I checked first, I wouldn’t even have clearly known from the blurb that this had abuse in it. (<-I don’t find this to be a spoiler…if you do, my apologies…)
In any case…Xylophone is a book about 2 young men broken by their pasts and struggling to recognize what happened, find support through sharing, and moving forward in life. Daren…a clarinet player in a polka band (“let’s polka!!!”) AND a an androgynous dancer at a gentlemen’s club unexpectedly meets Jonah, an insurance guy (I think?) and they forge a friendship based on some deep pains from their childhoods. Both Dare and Jonah are clearly damaged by these traumatic years and what this book does very well is get into the cavernous but layered & lasting effects of abuse…the emotions, the guilt, the shame, the fear, the disgust, the confusion…
What Xylophone does sorta differently, in my mind, than most other books about this topic is…well…it plays out the abuse, not just the more common healing-via-romance, on page. And for me that was HIGHLY difficult to read. Again, this is not a spoiler of the plot, but I think it’s crucial that the reader knows what they’re getting into. The abuse is described via flashback and written solidly so that I felt a bit like I was there…even now, I have a bitter taste in my mouth and what feels like a huge rock in my gut. Not graphic details…but the details remembered in a child’s mind…and that’s even more traumatic, in my opinion.
What the two are able to do is find some healing through honest sharing and with attraction and affection, find ultimately happiness together. I liked Dare and Jonah both so much. But, it was harder, despite the effort to do so, to associate or know their adult selves. Maybe it was me and my own issues, but I was so attached to their young, abused selves, I felt a bit disconnected from the present day pages. (I’m sure a psychologist would have a field day with this review alone!) And then the ending came suddenly, a bit over the top, and I almost didn’t even recognize the characters.
I think the writing was solid and the story…important. But, I was too removed by my triggers (<-I kinda hate this term) to really get into the book. And that makes it neither helpful as a reviewer nor entertaining as a reader. I kinda just wish I hadn’t read it. I’ve seen some reviews say it was angst-lite. Possibly so. Again, I’m probably the wrong person to ask…because it felt like a mack truck ran me over. Now pass the wine and the ice cream…
Ami – 4 stars