Book reviews

Tim Murphy’s Christodora (Grove Press, 2016)

Forget the gay parts; focus on the abortion and how the novel supports heterosexual normativity.

Tim Murphy’s novel is supposed to be about the AIDS pandemic and how it affected specific lives in New York since the 1980s.  It does that, but much more interesting are the abortion and heterosexual normativity themes.

The abortion which Milly keeps from her husband, Jared, the father of the aborted child, is an example of what happens in a marriage when a mother aborts the child she has created with her husband and tries to keep the killing secret.  Eventually, the secret is disclosed, so the breakup of the marriage and the disastrous effects it has on her life become obvious consequences.

The second much more interesting theme is the heterosexual normativity which another major character displays.  Adopted by Milly and Jared after she aborted their child, Mateo knows that his birth mother died from AIDS, but he does not know who his father was.  His anguished journey from his teenaged years to adulthood illustrates well in fiction what thinkers like Jordan Peterson have discussed in their nonfictional works: gender theorists are foolish in thinking that they can eliminate the heterosexual normativity which has been ingrained in human beings for millions of years.  Not even a lifelong exposure to gay and lesbian ideology and practices can stifle Mateo’s urgent need to learn about his real parents.

Oh, yeah.  If you want to read how gay and lesbian activists behaved in the AIDS era, then the rest of the novel may be interesting, too.

As with most other passages in contemporary literature, the sex scenes (whether heterosexual or that genital activity involving gay men or lesbians) are often laughable.  Although they are probably meant to keep the reader’s interest if it flags, such ridiculous sex scenes are howlingly funny and can help husbands and wives who are faithful to each other understand why so many charterers who are godless, amoral, or immoral act like animals instead of human beings gifted by God with rationality.

One problem with the narration is that the complicated chronological style shifts too much, moving from something in the 1980s, to the twenty-first century, then to the 1990s, then back to the 1980s, etc.  Such shifting chronology makes the entire novel unstable.  That may be the point of such a style, but jerking the reader chronologically like this could make it difficult for him or her to understand which character was doing what when.

Finally, the repetition of many ideas and interior monologues makes the reading tedious.  Cutting at least 150 pages would have helped.

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