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Does gender really matter? Kel and Toni are two damaged people, both trying to find answers. But, where Kel’s hopes for the future lie mainly with outreach programs and a new life with his lover, Toni’s looking for absolution in a bottle of Mexican hormone pills.
Kel loves Toni obsessively and—though he supports both of them on the money he gleans from turning tricks and indulging less-than-salubrious clients—he struggles with the reality of Toni’s burgeoning 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 has different problems to face. Is there really a correct way to read women’s magazines? What about the manifold uses of maxi pads? And just what is this gender thing, anyway?
For all their attempts to build a life together, both Kel and Toni know their survival is precarious. What neither of them realize is just how easily their harsh, isolated little world can be turned upside down and, when chance events push them into unknown territory, both must confront some difficult truths.
Wow. This book…
So, Ilhem on our blog team had challenged our group to take a stab at M. King’s “Filth”. She and guest reviewers Deirdre and Laura posted a 5 star review of the book back in November 2013. Without knowing too much about the story, the team jumped in…
Here are our thoughts (note: we’re using the masculine pronouns in our review for reasons that unfold in the book…):
I think this is probably one of the most emotional and powerful books I’ve read in a very long time. It was heart-wrenching. More often than not I found myself putting the book down for a few minutes and taking a deep breath before continuing.
The story is complex. With two MC’s that are broken, and lost. Toni’s gender transitioning was so difficult to read… Reading his thoughts and how lost he was wrecked me. I ached for him. I wanted to take him out of the book and protect him.
I didn’t always like how Toni treated Kel. However I think that most of these attitudes came from the confusion that Toni was trying to ease, from all the anger and resentment he had for being judged for how he was and wanted to be. The thing is that I think Kel suffered a bit through it all, and not because his lover was transitioning, but because he didn’t know how to help, yet he tried all he could to do it.
I’ve always been a firm believer that love is love. The love that Kel and Toni have for each other goes beyond any of those things: sexual orientation, gender… it all means nothing because they love each other for who they are as individuals, and maybe for who they are as a couple, too.
The only thing that bothered me a bit was the huge lack of communication that seemed to go through for most of the book. The relationship was so complex, and layered, and had so many downs that you’d think… but how is it possible that a relationship like that kept him sane?… It was, because when the lights went out and the world was quiet Toni knew he had Kel. That if everything around them crumbled, they would still have each other.
Do I recommend this? Hell yes!… Is it an easy happy read?… Hell NO! But it’s rich. A very rich read in many ways.
Rating: 4 stars
There are times when a book is almost too much. There are also times when a story transfers physical pain through the pages. It hurts and you are left aching afterwards. I have a new scar on my heart and its Filth inflicted.
This story hits and it hits hard. I’m still dazed and though I saw great beauty within the pages, I did not love it. I cannot neglect the outstanding writing, nor can I overlook the exceptional characters. In the same aspect, I can’t ignore the explosive relationship between Kel and Toni. I have no problem with rollercoaster relationships, mainly because my experience with them is that they soar more than they fall. However, the immature drama that ricocheted between Kel and Toni bugged me…enough that I was distracted.
What I did love was the blaring message that pulsed from the book. Love does not see…Love feels. It matters not what the wrapping looks like, but what the package protects. Anything of true value lies underneath the skin. This…this message was gorgeous.
I particularly liked Kel’s description of his love for Toni. Dangerous. He would do anything for Toni. Toni loves Kel with equal intensity but was blinded by the relentless turmoil in his head. His. I have such a difficult time attaching any pronouns to Toni. I hesitate every time because neither are a perfect fit.
Another word that strikes me with great significance here. We all have imperfections and true loves exists when our imperfections fit perfectly with another. However, it is impossible to genuinely love someone else when you do not love yourself first. Toni cannot love Kel properly until Toni loves Toni. Here lies the ultimate challenge.
I will forever link the lotus flower to this story. Kel often thought of Toni as a flower bud, tightly furled. Magic happens with a lotus flower. Even in the muddiest water, it can grow strong and beautiful. Their love will thrive, even in filth.
If you are willing to explore a journey of a discovering a lost soul and experience the turbulence such a path takes- take a deep breath, have a seat, and start here. You are gonna be here a while.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Honestly, I don’t know what to say. Still. The book wrecked me emotionally. Every time I think about it I feel like it took a piece of me. Or maybe I took a piece of it and that little piece has stayed with me. This book is about a struggling relationship, depression, mental stability, gender recognition, honesty, trust, communication, safety, friendship, co-dependency, fear, courage, acceptance. And it’s about change.
There’s a piece at the end where Kel’s thinking about everything; where they are, where they’re going, what’s happened, what’s to come. Kel learns a lot in the course of the story, but the thing he’s learned the most is this… “Change has to be worked for, built brick by brick”. And that’s so incredibly true.
Toni was frustratingly challenging to love. For all of Toni’s feelings, confusions, struggles, it’s Kel that I felt more connected to. Kel is who was my champion. Kel who is Toni’s champion. I love how Kel loves Toni. He doesn’t love an idea of Toni. He just loves Toni. Toni the person, not Toni the man, or Toni the woman, or even Toni an undecided gender. Just Toni.
You know, I really liked the book but I don’t know if I loved it. I think because of how hard it was to get through, I can’t. It feels like a really important book to read though. Like, more people should read it because there are statements being made here. Feelings, thoughts, ideas… all of which should be talked about.
In the end, this is a really good book with thought provoking statements, feelings, emotions, and truths. Truths about people. Truths about life and understanding. About acceptance and love. That’s what I got out of this.
Rating: 4 stars
About this book – it’s a brave piece of storytelling, it’s unapologetically honest, and it’s groundbreaking. When I see the original publish date, I’m shocked. Why haven’t more people read this? It feels IMPORTANT.
About the story – well, it’s a LOVE story. But it ain’t pretty. It’s about 2 young men that are CHANGING…and dealing with how individual change impacts a relationship change. And how confusion, and depression, and fear, and lack-of-acceptance, and anger…and the full spectrum of emotions, really…HURT…and HEAL…and ARE. Does that make sense?
Kel is a care-taker. You get that from the beginning. He’s struggling to take care of Toni as Toni struggles to figure out himself, or herself, or themself. And I don’t put those pronouns out there because I’m confused…but because Toni’s confused. (and the author does a KILLER job of mixing pronouns up to represent that confusion…brilliant)
But as easy as it is to love Kel and hate Toni…the author throws in this wrench where Toni shows his own strength…and his own contribution to the relationship. And it’s an ‘aha’ moment for me. I understand more WHY Kel loved Toni. What the draw was.
Look, this book is hard to explain. Yes, it has a trans character. Yes, it has a rentboy character. Yes it has angst and confusion. Yes it has slap-in-the-face emotion. But, it’s actually quite subtle in it’s writing. It’s not pretty…but it’s beautiful.
I recommend EVERYONE read it.
Rating: 4 stars