Review of All Gays Go to Heaven

All Gays Go to Heaven is the third book from the now dubbed “New Gay Author of 2010” from Queerbook.com, Reece Manley. Dr. Manley’s first two books included a slew of professional initials after his name, but this one simply credits him Reece Wyman Manley. It shows the author’s shift from teaching to simply telling in this his first wide appeal work.

All Gays Go to Heaven follows Reece’s life from the point of making a decision to have surgical weight loss interventions which go horribly awry to his life as it is today. In the retelling of his story, he follows the ancient story of the hero’s journey with all the elements included in his true to life journey. What makes the book stand out is that Reece holds nothing back. All of the ugliness of a life – incest, beatings, abuse, addiction – to all the beauty life can hold – love, friendship, spirituality and an authentic life.

The nemesis of Reece’s life comes in the form of an injury during his bariatric surgery, slimming him from 414 pounds to 170 pounds. However, the injury disables him with a neuropathy which delivers chronic pain to his feet. The pain takes the form of a giant black bird in one graphic passage from the memoir, which delightfully feeds on his exposed feet. It’s an image hard to shake as one progresses through the pages.

Soon, there are plenty of smiles served up by his companions and the exploration of a gay life apparently quite lively in the city of Lubbock, Texas. His friend, Jeff, delivers the best lines of dialog in his simple task of answering his phone. “Jeff’s House of Coffins, our prices are to die for!” The pithy becomes the lovable. In addition, a mentor appears in Reece’s life full of an advising wisdom on all the matters of his life. The balance between the characters is tense at times, and a bit choppy, but the overall effect is intriguingly readable.

All Gays Go to Heaven’s title comes from a conversation Reece has during his inpatient treatment for the trauma of his near death experience. He simply reveals his new Truth that there is a loving, omnipotent Source which we all eventually reach after we pass on. The story ends with his hopeful grip on both his life path, his sanity and the containment of the pain which still haunts from the corners.

All Gays Go to Heaven is a hefty 189,000 words, but a rich, easy writing style makes the journey not only enjoyable, but inspiring as well.

Five Stars.

Craig Williams, PhD

"A Long Walk to Water" Book Review

Linda Sue Park helped Salva Dut share his experience as a “Lost Boy” of Sudan who returned home to build a well for his village.

Salva was eleven years old when he began the journey on foot with thousands of other children who were forced out of their villages after soldiers killed their parents. The violent reality included shootings, being eaten by lions and crocodiles, drowning and being abducted to be child soldiers.

The children traveled through Southern Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya. They lived in refugee camps for several years. Salva took interest in learning English so an aid worker taught him. Eventually as a young man, Salva was one of the group permitted to come to the United States.

After a few years in the United States, Salva received word that his father was still alive but very ill due to not having clean water. Salva began his dream of being reunited with his father and finding a way to solve the water problem. With help from many people organizing and raising funds, his dream came true.

Salva returned home and was reunited with his father. He was told his mother was still alive but it was too dangerous to travel to where she was. He only got to see his father because he was in a hospital.

Salva put together a team and drilled a well in the village. His term was that no one could be refused water. The village people had to come together for the benefit of all. Later, he began drilling wells in other villages.

The ending brought the fictional part of the story together with his true story. The fictional story was about a young Nuer girl named Nya about twenty years later who benefitted from the new well. She noticed that the man who gave them the clean water did not have tribal markings on his forehead. She assumed he was from her tribe. She asked someone and was told he was Dinka, not Nuer. She wondered why he would help them. She got up the courage to approach him and said, “Thank you for bringing us the water.”

Girls were now able to attend school because they no longer had to walk for water.

This story is precious to me because of the Sudanese young adults in my life. One is my friend and his family. The other is my daughter in law. My friend is Dinka and my daughter-in-law is Nuer. I love them both.

My friend’s dream is to build a school building for the children in his village. I want to help him. We will need a lot of help. I’m sure each one of the “Lost Boys” have dreams. Although telling their stories is painful, one by one, we can help them build a brighter future for the next generation.

Book Review of "The Day He Left for Iraq"

Going across the world to another country is not only difficult for military members on deployment but for the families they leave behind as well. This memoir is revealing about what both parties go through during the distance.

In “The Day After He Left for Iraq”, Melissa Seligman opens the reader’s door to her world. Her family’s story reflects that of so many others who share similar experiences. Being free to share it and hear it allows us to acknowledge that we are human.

Melissa’s husband was deployed to Iraq while she was home with a baby and a toddler. The toddler understood more than adults would imagine. It makes you think about how important it is to prepare children for deployment and the return.

I am thankful that Melissa shared her family’s story. I’ve always wanted to know what a soldier goes through in war but was afraid to ask out of respect for their privacy.

As a young woman dating enlisted men in the military, I was discouraged by their immaturity and disregard of respect for young women. I guess I didn’t meet the good ones. I later married an Army Officer and he is a good man.

Now, as the mother of a young woman who is a Naval Officer on deployment and soon to be mother in law of her fiancee, also a Naval Officer just returned fro deployment, I pray every day for their future and that they will be safe and know they are loved.

I pray that when they have children I will be able to be a support during any deployments. I pray that the young men will become gentlemen who respect women and the families of the other side in the same way they would wish for their own families.

Many returning Veterans do have to seek counseling and their spouses as well but sharing their stories is a huge step in understanding their world. I will still respect privacy but do desire to find out how I can support our military families. As my daughter marries and shares her experiences, I hope to become involved in healing the heartaches of those returning from war.

I hope I never have to experience war. There are valid views on all sides. Americans who serve willingly need to be supported. Objectors during drafts need to be understood, such as what happened during the Viet Nam era. Those fighting against us may not have good cause but their mothers grieve for lost children just the same. The innocent on both sides still hurt.

I am glad I read this book. It is a start in knowing how we as citizens can help.