No Going Back by Jonathan Langford is an amazing book. It is the story of a teenage boy who learns to come to terms with his membership in the Church and his same-sex attractions. It is written with an exceptional understanding of the challenges of being both gay and Mormon. The author is sensitive to a wide variety of feelings and opinions. Through his writing, the author challenges each one of us to re-examine our own beliefs closely while at the same time developing understanding and tolerance for others' beliefs. This novel is a very uplifting story about the struggle between desires and faith. It is about the strength of the human spirit and the power of true friendships.
I am very happy I read this book and wish everyone I know would read it. For members of The LDS Church who might be cautious of the subject matter, I would say that this is a doctrinally sound book; it remains in harmony with the teachings of Christ. To people who do not belong to the LDS faith, this book is not an attack on gays in any way. It is neither homophobic nor bigoted. It is simply a story about a boy who realizes that he has the ability to decide what he wants to do with his life.
I highly recommend that everyone reading my blog buy and read this book! It is available from Amazon here: No Going Back.
Here are some other reviews of the book and the blurb from the back cover:
A gay teenage Mormon growing up in western Oregon in 2003. His straight best friend. Their parents. A typical LDS ward, a high-school club about tolerance for gays, and a proposed anti-gay-marriage amendment to the state constitution. In NO GOING BACK, these elements combine in a coming-of-age story about faithfulness and friendship, temptation and redemption, tough choices and conflicting loyalties.
“No Going Back is not just for anyone with same sex attraction. It is a must for leaders who work with those struggling with these choices, as well as for family and friends as they love, reject, support, or fail to understand what such a struggle costs.” — Linda Hunter Adams, former director of the BYU Humanities Publications Center, past president of the Association for Mormon Letters
“Jonathan Langford’s No Going Back is a heartfelt, heart breaking, and ultimately enriching tale of what it means to be a fifteen year old Mormon boy who truly wants only to do what is right, but is faced with the terrifying fact that he is gay. The main character’s troubling journey is honest and sheds light on one of the most difficult dilemmas facing hundreds, if not thousands, of young Mormons who just want it to go away. Langford writes honestly without becoming bogged down in the politics surrounding this issue.” — Gerald Argetsinger, Associate Professor of Performing Arts, Rochester Institute of Technology; former Artistic Director of the LDS Church’s Hill Cumorah Pageant
“As I began reading, I found myself engaged with the characters and sharing their hopes and fears.... To me this was an important work, exploring the territory of coming-of-age in the challenging context of same-sex attraction in a young man whose honest faith forbids acting out the behaviors associated with the attraction. The characterizations of the bishop, the best friend, the parent and the population of the school and church communities were credible and empathetic. As I read it, I often thought that this book should be required reading for bishops and others who are called upon to help youth navigate the turbulent waters of adolescence and faith.” — Evan A. Ballard, former bishop, father of seven
“People are my area of interest. All people. For years, same sex attraction has been an area that I have tried to understand so that I can be compassionate or helpful to those that struggle.... I found the book to be a page turner and for me that says a lot. There were times that I wanted to take it with me as I rode in the car so that I could continue reading. I was anxious for the day to end so that I could pick it up again. The characters in the book felt very real to me.” — Connie Bankston, mother of five, long-time stake specialist working with LDS Family Services
“The story opens a window into the often silent and lonely world of a young man who is coming to understand his same-sex attraction while he experiences the ignorance and cruelty of an intolerant society. Paul’s experiences with his family, his best friend, his church leaders, and his peer group tell not just the story of a gay young man coming of age, but a very human story that any person who has struggled to find himself will relate to. What makes this story most gripping for me is the intersection of Paul’s strong religious beliefs, his desire to be happy with himself, and his loyalty to those he loves most. Paul’s personal struggle also sends shock-waves through the lives of those closest to him, as they dig deep within themselves to find what matters most.” — Brian Burns, professional counselor, former Scoutmaster
“For perhaps 72 hours after reading No Going Back, it was almost the only thing I thought about. You have touched very sensitively, compassionately, and thoughtfully on a very important topic about which Mormons are almost completely silent.... I see this book as an essential first step in opening a viable dialogue about a struggle that is very real for many members of the church. In truth, I believe this book will save someone’s life.” — Clark Draney, Associate Professor of English, College of Southern Idaho
“Two main aspects of my life coincide with themes in your novel. I was a Scoutmaster with the Boy Scouts of America in my local ward for about ten years, and I also struggle with the dilemma of being a believing and faithful Latter-day Saint who struggles with same-sex attraction. For me, your novel was a home run exploring these issues. You captured many of the things I have personally felt as I have navigated those waters.
“The tensions abound in your novel, between faithfulness to the Church, Scouting, family issues, single parenthood, too-busy bishops, neglected bishops’ wives, and being part of the gay world but not welcome in it. These tensions are all well-portrayed and thought out. This will be a novel that many thoughtful Latter-day Saints will want to read. It is simple, but far-reaching in its ability to make people think and consider their own feelings, without being preachy or trying to advance a point of view. As much as I’ve thought about these very issues from a personal standpoint, you still gave me plenty more to think about.” — Rex Goode, AML-List member, trained social worker, webmaster for the Latter-Day Sexual Recovery website
“I was drawn into the story and wanted to see what happened. Having read the book, and from my own personal experience, I am convinced that it told the story the way I would see it in many cases in real life.... The book seems faithful to LDS church standards and positions as I understand them. My understanding of the topic is better. I understand more of the problems people face in dealing with it. I feel as if I know the characters in the story and would recognize them if I was introduced to them.” — Larry Jackson, AML-List member, father of eleven
“I love the way it brings to life through narrative what I imagine will be the struggle of many youth growing up in today’s evolving culture around gay issues. Parents, friends, priesthood leaders, and peers are all a critical part of how we negotiate our sense of self-identity and life choices, and this story is masterful in how it brings to life all the tensions associated with that process. A couple of times, I even found myself forgetting this was fiction and wanting to get in contact with the main character to assure him he’s not alone. Each of the characters, with their different personalities and roles in the narrative — Barbara, Sandy, Richard, Chad, Paul, the kids at church and the kids at school — offers something quite meaningful to the story.” — Ty Mansfield, coauthor of In Quiet Desperation: Understanding the Challenge of Same-Gender Attraction, published in 2004 by Deseret Book
“I thought a more literary, more postmodern treatment was necessary. I was wrong. By telling the story simply, tying it to a particular time and place, and focusing on the teenage protagonists, Langford is able to confine the discussion of this issue to a manageable narrative — and a compelling one. The approach Langford takes is genius. I love the way he threads the middle of American Mormon mores, doctrine, and practice in a way that is in some senses mundane — this is basically a domestic drama — but also incredibly radical.
“These teenagers act like teenagers, even though they are basically good kids.... Any discussion of same-sex attraction makes a lot of Mormons uncomfortable. But the novel is thoroughly orthodox. Its characters are orthodox Mormons. Its tensions and ultimate solutions and resolutions are firmly rooted in active LDS life — prayer, scripture study, repentance, the priesthood, love, charity, hope, the family.” — William Morris, founder of the Mormon arts and culture blog A Motley Vision
“I knew that a story about a Mormon teen who has recently discovered homosexual tendencies in himself was not going to have an easy or tidy resolution. However, I found the manuscript easy to read because the characters were all appealing. I liked them and wanted to see how they would interact and deal with the situations they were facing. The ending was as positive as I could imagine. I cannot attest to the reality of the experiences, since I have never been a teenaged boy myself, of any orientation (gay, straight, east-west), but the characters felt real to me. I periodically had to remind myself that this wasn’t a problem I was expected to help with, since the characters were only fictional.” — Laura F. Nielsen, children’s author, mother of five
“Abiding by Mormonism’s high standards challenges all its faithful adherents. Coping with one’s besieged status as a young gay is no less difficult. What if you are both at the same time? Like no other work I know, Langford’s frank and poignant novel brings this real-life impasse into bold relief.” — Thomas F. Rogers, BYU Russian Professor Emeritus; Mormon playwright and essayist, author of Heubener, Fire in the Bones, and A Call to Russia: Glimpses of Missionary Life
“I was surprised with how nuanced and rounded your handling of the issue was. As a faithful but not quite mainstream-thinking Mormon, I appreciated that the work affirmed gospel principles, but didn’t treat the church as a whitewashing panacea for obstacles. I felt that you did a good job of representing and honoring the level of difficulty, sacrifice, and commitment that (I’ve always imagined) staying in the church would require of a homosexual person.” — Heidi Tighe, AML-List member
“It’s high time we came to terms with same-sex issues, the more so where we are most reluctant to do so. I welcome both this broaching of the issue from a Latter-day Saint perspective and its frankly positive dealing with an issue this touchy. I suspect much of the appeal of the narrative for others — as for me — will lie in its ‘this is part of life’ naturalness, in the good-natured refusal (like the bishop character) to be prissy or unrealistic about gay realities.
“Jonathan Langford’s first novel is engaging stuff. The narrative opens into some of our deepest concerns, and the prose makes us glad to be there.” — Steven C. Walker, BYU English Professor
GO READ IT!