I started reading Martin Pousson’s novel expecting a hilarious black comedy and a light read. It is neither. Black Sheep Boy is a harrowing story of survival and, as the best pieces of fiction often are, not an easy read.

Pousson’s elegant prose must be read slowly to be fully enjoyed. I wouldn’t recommend taking this book to the beach (as I did) but saving it for a gloomy day when you have nothing else on your agenda. It is dark. And sad. Prepare to be heartbroken. Painful events are never sweetened or padded with campy humor; merely told with gracious style that makes the unspeakable bearable. There’s some veiled humor, but nothing that will make you laugh out loud. Au contraire, with every page you will feel that your heart shrinks a little. One character’s statement that he had been voted “Most Likely to Suck Seed” in his senior year of high-school, will make you curl a lip, but probably shed a tear too, because of the pitiful circumstances in which he makes this comment.

For the most of the book, the main character has no name and neither do his parents or grandparents. Physical descriptions are scarce. I must say that I craved more concrete imagery, especially at the beginning, but overall, the use of metaphor throughout this book works superbly. Pousson’s intention was not to entertain his readers with colorful gay boy adventures, but to make them experience the tragedy of being an outcast, to make them inhabit the main character’s body as if it were a vessel navigating through the dark worlds of the Bayou and homosexual life, rather than an actual person. The protagonist does and sees, but until the very end, he hardly ever expresses how he feels or what he truly wants. We know that he wants to be “normal,” but we never really get to meet him. We simply accompany him, feeling partially numbed, partially frightened, and always inadequate.

An excellent read that reminds us that gay life is not always “gay” and that for many, it may never get better.

Black Sheep Boy