This LGBTQ fiction book had been on my to-be-read list for a very long time, and I finally saw the audiobook available through the library so I added it to my holds list.
This book had a 14 week hold list. In 2019. It was published in 2017. 14. Week. Wait.
That should really be the title of this post, because I think it sums it up.
Evelyn Hugo is a starlet of the bygone days of Hollywood who transformed herself to be everything her adoring public wanted, so she could be famous. It only cost her everything.
From her Cuban heritage to her personal relationships with her one unforgettable love, Evelyn sacrificed her very name to never return to the squalor in which she was born.
The Twist on the Classic
While this may have been a story done ten times over, the starlet of Hollywood’s Golden Age, the famous mega movie goddess whose life turns to chaos and despair, the ultimate price of fame, and while there are those elements in this story, it’s not at all what you might expect it to be.
It’s the story of a woman who was determined to get out of the terrible circumstances into which she was born and make a life for herself of great loves, comfort, and devotion. This story was so utterly brilliant in its normalcy.
The characters have freaking oatmeal for breakfast. How more June Cleaver can you get than that?
What Didn’t Surprise Me
I will say I wasn’t surprised by this story. I could tell where it was going at the outset. The set up was fairly obvious, and I knew right away why Evelyn wanted to see Monique specifically and why she was being so cagy.
LGBTQ Fiction as a Lens
But what I enjoyed about this book was its walk through LBGTQ history in 20th century America. I say 20th century America because the characters leave the US for some peace and quiet where no one will care who or what they are. But in America, it was a regular part of their lives to avoid the discovery of their sexual orientations.
I live in a world where I accept everyone and everything. If you want to marry your iPhone, I don’t care. As long as your choices don’t hurt yourself or others, I’m all for you having a life. So rock out. It’s hard for me to see discrimination. It’s hard because I so desperately want to live in a world where we’re past that, but we’re not.
So this book did that for me. It made me realize the discrimination that I’m so determined to eradicate. It was in the simple things that in 20th century America, Evelyn could not do because she was bisexual. Things I never would have realized without Reid carefully painting the picture of what life was like for the LGBTQ community in the mid-1900s. That oatmeal suddenly becomes a lighthouse on a rocky shore, blinking madly to get the reader’s attention.
So while the plot didn’t surprise me in this LGBTQ fiction book, how the book made me feel did, and I voraciously devoured it within days.
Taylor Jenkins Reid is the author of six novels and resides in Los Angeles. Her latest book, Daisy Jones and the Six, is already on my holds list at the library.
Have you read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo?
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