A Particular Friendship is a story about Tom Morton, a Catholic priest whose life becomes more complicated when an old love, Anthony, returns to town. Anthony encourages Tom to more explicitly support the LGBTQ+ community in his town, but Tom’s church refuses to go through with his ideas, threatening his job. Keeping his role as a priest, being open with his identity, and supporting others in the community prove difficult for Tom, especially with the presence of Bishop Derek Worrell. Worrell is a highly respected bishop, so even though Tom knows how vile and corrupt he truly is, he can’t be vocal about his problems with him. Throughout the story, there are flashbacks of Tom’s past displaying what it was like for him being a closeted boy confused about, and reluctant to accept, his identity. Even as an adult, when some of those close to him grow to support him or reveal they knew all along, he finds it difficult to be honest with them. The fear of discrimination, losing his job, and even losing his mother’s respect, weighs on him as he tries to deem the ‘right’ thing to do while preaching acceptance and helping those in the community who need his support.
As a warning to anyone sensitive to the following topics, this book includes mentions of rape and pedophilia. The book also depicts homophobic individuals, though they are, of course, painted in a negative light.
As a Christian who’s also an LGBTQ+ ally, I’m glad to see a book from a religious gay person’s point of view. The book points out misconceptions that homophobes use to justify their bigotry and shine a light on how tolerant and accepting the religion actually is. The switches between Tom’s past and present showcase how much he’s changed as a person from his adolescence, while also showing how he got to the point he’s at as an adult. All the emotions, conflict, and harshness displayed in the story feel real, possibly to an uncomfortable extent, but it doesn’t feel excessive for the sake of added drama. It deals with very real, uncomfortable themes and handles them excellently through the eyes of a man in the middle of it all.
I would recommend this book to anyone, religious or not, LGBTQ+ or not, for its superb writing and message. If the concept interests you, the full book more than executes it perfectly.
~Jada Wilson, posted on Reedsy Discovery
*****This is a deep and thought-provoking story portraying Tom’s life as a gay priest, in a homophobic catholic church system. We follow his struggle with his sexuality, and how he tries to reconcile his sexuality with his catholic religion.
The story is told from Tom’s perspective throughout the book. The book has two timelines. The current time and Tom’s youth which is shown to us in flashbacks. I am not always a fan of flashbacks, but the author has used them well, and I think I only had one slight moment of confusion between the timelines.
The story starts with Antony, Toms former lover of his youth turns up at St James church, one of two churches in Toms parish. They slowly rebuild their friendship, but it also brings back the many issues from Tom’s past.
Through flashbacks we see Tom as a young man struggling with his sexuality and trying to reconcile it with the catholic teachings against homosexuals. When he meets Antony for the first time, and they become close which leads them to sharing a bed. Tom is still in denial and runs off to join the church at Ash Burrow seminary where he training to become a priest begins.
Whilst training to be a priest Tom who shuts out friends from his past and becomes very isolated. So, when he is sexually abused by Derek Worrell (who later becomes the Bishop of Preston). He has no one to turn to for support. Which leads to suicidal thoughts.
At 50 having hidden behind his religion and suffered the abuse and hypocritical teachings that the traditionalist Catholics insist he follows. He finally reaches breaking point. He decides to go against the Bishop at his Easter sermon, He tells his parishioners that he has been living with HIV for the past twenty years.
An often harrowing and heart wrenching story of one man’s faith, and battle to pull the catholic church into modern times of acceptance of all.
The story and characters draw you into toms struggles and the harsh truths of Establishment (in this case the catholic church) against the small man. The author has portrayed the story well and to me he shows that it is not the catholic religion that is at fault but rather a minority that have the power who interpret the Bible to their choosing.
The book does not read as a standard romance but is a little like a memoir of Toms life. The book has left we with many deep thoughts and I know I will remember Tom’s journey for a long time. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes a story that shows life as we live it warts and all.
Thank you for the ARC read, I voluntarily give this book an honest review. This is one of those trigger reads that has emotional and physical struggle, there is mentioned and signs of self harm, depression, child abuse in many different forms, even with these it is a must read as it is eye opening in a large scale of ways.
Oh there is just so much I can say about this amazing read but that would lead to more details of the book, this book will bring a broad range of emotions to any reader.
~Josh Dale, UK, posted on Amazon.com, 5 stars
*****Thank you for the ARC read, I voluntarily give this book an honest review. *spoiler alert* This is one of those trigger reads that has emotional and physical struggle, there is mentioned and signs of self harm, depression, child abuse in many different forms, even with these it is a must read as it is eye opening in a large sclae of ways. Oh there is just so much I can say about this amazing read but that would lead to more details of the book, this book will bring a broad range of emotions to any reader. Father Morton has a wonderment about him that leads him down a spiritual journey type of feel. A witty bit of youth innocence in a nostalgia view point. This story brings to light a whole new level of awareness but it brings with hope and misguided or should I say small minded individuals.
Until the corrupt isn’t brushed under the rug, the acts of a few can and will tarnish the many.
Tom spotting Antony seated in his pews for church services. I know it’s emotional scene with Lillian but between Antony and her, its hilarious as they don’t pull back when confronting Tom about anything. Is it so unheard of for someone to feel a calling…whether it be religious beliefs, to serve the community/country, or just to be a willing ally to offer support where needed… only to be looked down because of sexual orientation.
The way everyone reacts is just shameful. Losing faith is easy, holding on to that faith when all is lost is harder. This story may have a happy ending but for many that is not the case.
~Cheryl C, USA, posted on Amazon.com, 5 stars
*****Emotional in Many Different Ways. There are going to be people you really dislike/hate in this book and it’s depressing, because some of us know those people aren’t just fictional. Be aware that this author has an amazing ability to bring those people to life and for some that could be triggering. I found once I started this book I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to see how Tom would confront his past and all those around him in his present. For me, this is a story about religion as an institution versus faith/spirituality and how each person must decide how they will worship and find comfort, healing and love for this world and its living things. It will make you ask yourself some serious questions.
~Susan Umphers, USA, posted on Amazon.com, 5 stars
*****Impactful. This is the kind of book that takes time to process— it tells a story that’s complicated in some respects and simple in others, and what makes it so impactful, in all kinds of ways, is how deeply human these characters and situations feel. Tom Morton’s experiences weave together spirituality, trauma, survival, and identity in a deeply resonant way. The narrative is full of emotion and showcases a spectrum of human behavior, bad, good, ambiguous, and all shades between. All in all, it’s a powerful read.
I received an ARC of this book and am voluntarily leaving a review.
~Coffee, USA, posted on Amazon.com, 5 stars
****Growing up, Tom experienced tragedy and sexual confusion. The only place he found peace and salvation was within his Catholic faith. To the dissent of his friends, Tom became a priest. Later in years, a man he loved returns to his life, sparking a war between his faith in God and the Church that claims to act in his name. This novel is Tom Morton’s life story – well, the first fifty years.
A Particular Friendship is a story that I felt split in two about – the critical reviewer and the heart/message within, written in a memorandum of two real-life inspirational individuals. Bob Summerbell, from Vancouver, accomplished much within a cut-short life, and, Father Alan Griffin. He was partly the inspiration for writing this story, which I get the impression was somewhat of a bloodletting experience for the author.
The story is told in the third person entirely from Tom’s viewpoint as a fifty-year-old priest, using flashbacks to his younger days – beginning as a child and the two timelines eventually converge. The setting is a northern British town where twenty-first-century teaching had yet to sink into an influential element of the Catholic populace.
There is lots of imagery of living from various walks of life. There are also many talking points, which I recognized from my youth in the seventies/eighties. While these made me smile, creating a connection between me and the story, there are also named roads, places, and factories. Anyone who has travelled to the UK will recognize some components, but there are others that only locals to the area will appreciate – limiting the wider audience. Acronyms are also used, which may decrease the word count, but personally, they belong in my room 101 as they continually confuse me.
With Tom being a priest, religion plays a massive part in the story. Tom’s sermons and outlook on life made for very different reading, especially the various interpretations of certain Bible passages. The language style made some areas harder to read than others, so this is not a book to read while there are outside distractions.
Tom is a super character. For years, he’s hidden behind his religion, passively believing one voice could do nothing to change the bullying practices of those more powerful than himself. These tendencies make for good reading because while I occasionally wanted to slap him, his actions were realistic to life. But, like any caged animal in a corner, eventually enough is enough.
I loved the content of this story, but it was in the construction that I had an issue. While reading, I felt the flashbacks come out of nowhere, making me stumble. It was akin to someone hitting pause on the TV remote while giving you a side story. A font change did not highlight these instances, nor was there any lead into them regarding place or timeline. A paragraph finished, and next was a memory that, although it had a bearing on what was to follow, frequently interrupted the flow of the story as they usually appeared mid-dramatic scene that had to be picked up again later. These memories also contained lots of named characters, that longer-term, had me confused with who was who. However, these people also showcased varying perspectives that aided and hampered Tom’s journey.
There were a couple of dramatic scenes describing the aftermath of an incident but not the event itself, giving me a few WTF moments. Maybe the author wasn’t comfortable writing them, or he preferred to concentrate on a different message. Still, from a reader’s perspective, it would have added a change in heart rate and a diversion from discussion topics.
It took a lot of balls to write this story, so kudos to the author. I found it one that left me with plenty to think about regarding the difference between belief, the mediums that showcase religion and the struggles that accompany that, and lots between. It was a bold and daring read that looked at the view of the church from various attitudes. The slow burn nature of the story allows for numerous walks of life, and personalities to be added, including the poor, the wealthy, the powerful and oppressed, the cynics and understanding, loved and unloved, wise, and more.
The story could quite easily be five stars if you know the area. But for people further afield, at the least, it will be educational. The talking points within the book and what it represents is recommended reading. However, I feel more thought could have gone into the flow because at the end of the day, regardless of inspiration, and cathartic release, etc.; this is billed as a work of fiction, and an audience needs to be both entertained and informed.
This book was provided free in exchange for a fair and honest review for Love Bytes.
~Taylin Clavelli, posted on Goodreads, 4 stars
****Very thought-provoking. I’m honestly not sure what to write in this review. A Particular Friendship is a very thought-provoking book. When I first started reading it, I wasn’t sure if I would finish but I’m glad I did. There are a lot of words in this story that were unfamiliar to me but I stopped looking them up after a while because I could understand them in the context of the story.
I should say upfront that I am neither Catholic or religious but I’ve always had a fondness for “fallen priest” stories. However, that is not what this book is. It is a compelling narrative about the life of a gay priest and the injustices he encounters within the church he loves.
The story reads almost like a diary and it felt very real to me. It is serious fiction with an important message – that love is love. It was not easy to read many parts of this story and there probably should be trigger warnings about homophobia, rape, suicide, drug use, alcohol abuse, and homelessness. The long blurb shown above is much more detailed than the one on Goodreads or Amazon and it describes the book very well.
The shift in timelines was disconcerting at first, partly because I didn’t really absorb what the detailed blurb was telling me about the structure of the story. Odd numbered chapters are present day and even numbered ones occur in the past – many of the even numbered chapters are very short, especially in the beginning. The review copy that I was provided didn’t have each chapter starting on a new page as is normal for most books so that took a bit of getting used to.
To conclude, I’m glad that I read this thought-provoking book.
A copy of this book was provided to me at my request but my review was voluntary and not influenced by the author.
~ ButtonsMom2003, Reviewed for Xtreme-Delusions dot com, posted on Goodreads 4 stars
****Requires Thoughtfulness. I read a lot of books and sometimes I’m lucky enough to find one that I hate to put down. This book was different for me. I didn’t want to put it down but it took me a little more time to actually read it and I did have to stop and think about it a little more. I had to really pay attention because of the jumping back and forth. Also because I understand the mind games the church can play with a person. I have to stop and remember the church is man ruled. Faith and God are each person’s personal comfort and answers. There is a lot of emotion. The internal conflicts made me realize how far we have come and the behaviors that follow. This story demands attention and I’m glad Gay Book Promotions gave me the opportunity to add this author to my watch list.
~ Macbandit, USA posted on Amazon.com, 4 stars
***This was a difficult and somewhat depressing book for me to read: I had great sympathy for the gay priest and was sadden by all of his trials and conflicts. The chapters alternate between his past youth & struggles and his current trials as an adult gay priest. This book was won on the Goodreads-giveaway. The sermons by the priest in the last part of the book dealing with God’s love and acceptance of LGBTQ+ were quite inspirational. Recommended for adult readers.
~Michael, posted on Goodreads, 3 stars