And so, starting to read the book I was pretty surprised to see that Joseph, Paul's father, was not at all a negative character. A recent widower, he didn't let his pain close his heart, and he is still ready to be a supporting father and a good reverend. He moves to a big church in Dallas, bigger than the one he was used to, but the change is necessary for him and also for his son. He is also very happy when his son finds a friend in Jeremy, a same-age guy of the parish. More, Joseph also starts to date Janet, a divorced mother of two little girls who serves as secretary for the church. If you wonder why I spend so much time talking of Joseph, it's since Joseph is the perfect example of a man who has had no chance to see the "truth": basically Joseph is a good man, a good father and a good reverend, but he is stuck with the old teachings, the ones saying that being gay is a sin, that it's not acceptable. When Joseph learns that depending on the church there is also a "correctional" center, a place where supposed "doctors" teach to young men to not being gay, he only worries that they are not using violence, but medicine and brainwashing are all right. Not even when a young man kills himself, a boy he talked with and said he wanted only to arrive to the day he could leave the "center" to be free, not even then the good reverend questioned his beliefs.
In a way, being Joseph a good man is even worst for his son, since Paul can't reconcile his feelings for Jeremy with the teachings of his father; his father is a good man, Paul loves him, and if his father tells him that being gay is bad, young Paul can only believe it. And then there is also the fact that Paul is an only son, that he is the only family his father has, and if he leaves his father, he will leave him all alone. When Paul meets Jeremy, he is the perfect good son of a reverend: at 18 years old he is a perfect virgin, he has not even masturbated himself. But if Paul's mind doesn't know, his body well does, and being near Jeremy awakens all the forbidden desires. There is not much struggle on Paul's side, as soon as he realizes that Jeremy is gay, and that he is interested in him, Paul throws himself in the relationship, without second thoughts. It's quite easy, also Jeremy has to hide from his parents, and they can hide together.
At first I found a bit disconcerting all the sex between the two boys; it seemed to me reckless and odd that they were trying to hide from their respective parents, and in the meantime they were spending all possible time together in bed. But then it struck me: they are two teenagers, they don't think as adults, they are not adults at all! They are two boys in love and in that moment, the most important thing is to find a way to consume that love. I don't know if it was an author's choice, or maybe the fact that probably the author is not an erotic, and not even a romance writer, but also the sex scenes were very "bare" and basic, almost clinical; there was not foreplaying, not knowledge how to do "things" to easy and heighten each other pleasure, the main purpose was to get off as soon and as much as possible.
Nor Paul or Jeremy behave as adult men, nor during sex or in the choice they take. Without the help of elder people around, they will not even reach an healthy choice; again someone could question if it was a good behavior, and again I answered myself, it was probably the right behavior for a 18 years old guy in that same situation. Paul and Jeremy are not good "example", they are not two role models for gay teenagers, they are two boys who are in love but are still too young to help that love to grow. They are lucky enough to have other people around wiser than them, and ready to help.
The novel has maybe a simple perspective on the issue, for Paul and Jeremy it's not easy, but all in all it goes better than many other boys in their same situation; Paul's father, Joseph, maybe takes a little too late the right decision, but at least he did. In a perfect world, he should have reached that decision not since he realized that his son was in danger, but since it was the right thing to do, and so neither him proves to be a "perfect" character, but again, maybe it was not the idea of the author to write perfect and unbelievable characters. Paul and Jeremy are 18 years old boy, born and raised in a privileged society, and so they are not ready to face the big bad world alone. Joseph is a good man who believes in certain preachment, and till the moment the bad side of those beliefs don't hurt him, he doesn't realize they are wrongs. Maybe Paul, Jeremy and Joseph are not perfect, but I believe they are right for the society where they live.
The Preacher's Son is not a perfect novel, I still feel like the sex scene where a bit too rough and the ending a bit too fairy-tale and sugary, but all in all, it was a sweet coming of age story (with a scene that remembers both An Affair to Remember or Sleepless in Seattle, an appointment on a skydeck), and if you like to read of young boys in love, with the big bad world just outside but not too threatening, this is the right novel.
Amazon: The Preacher's Son: A Southern Coming-Out Story