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Boy in the Hole
Akiva Hersh. BookBaby, $14.99 trade paper (296p) ISBN 978-1-5439-8553-5
Neuropsychologist Hersh’s heartfelt if didactic debut traces the experiences of a boy as he grows up in a dysfunctional, abusive family in 1970s central Florida. As a fifth grader, Jacob Murtaugh’s mother forces him to touch his hand to a hot stove (“this is how I feel when you lie to me,” she says). The next year, he begins spending time after school at gay neighbor Wayne’s house and with friends he’s attracted to, and struggles between his Christian faith and his sexuality (“ ‘Please don’t let me be like Wayne,’ he prayed before he thought about the boys in the shower during dress-out”). Hersh chronicles key moments in Jacob’s life, from being sexually abused by his pastor, to finding a first love with another boy, to his first sexual experiences. After Jacob’s mother makes an appointment for him with therapist Rue Pedersen, Jacob copes with his conflicted emotions by reading up on a psychotherapy method called Quantum Change and practicing it on others. While much of the episodic novel reads like a compendium of sexual experimentation, it gains cumulative power and Jacob becomes increasingly sympathetic. Hersh’s chronicle of a precocious boy’s ordeal is emotionally affecting. (Self-published)

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly on 06/19/2020

Release date 11/01/2019

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