I Came Out for This? by Lisa Gitlin is a unique gem. Imagine you’ve picked up the diary of a temperamental person who makes bad choices. And I mean really bad choices. Like, say, following a woman to another state even though she’s rejected you. Are you holding that idea in your mind? You now have just the barest idea of what you’re in for when you read this book.
Joanna Kane is 47, eking out a living in Cleveland as a freelance writer, and has only been out as a lesbian for a couple of years. She’s head over heels for a woman named Terri, who not only has made it clear to Joanna that she doesn’t want a relationship with her, but lives in Washington DC. Tired of the rut she’s been in for far too long in Cleveland, Joanna moves into a rooming house in Washington, having told Terri that she’s ready for them to just be friends (even though she’s totally not). What could possibly go wrong?
Joanna is not the easiest character to like. She swings between anger and euphoria, simultaneously loving and hating Terri, all while the people who love Joanna do their best to tell her to stay the hell away from Terri. And yet, all of her behaviour kind of makes sense, especially when she puts it like this:
You know what it’s like to come out when you’re in your forties, having menopausal symptoms, for God’s sake, and then fall madly in love with someone? All of a sudden you’re in adolescence for the first time. You don’t recognize yourself.
There were so many times when I was reading this book that I wanted to shout at Joanna to step away from whatever she was about to say or do, even though the diary format means she’s telling us about things after they’ve already happened. And while I may not have always liked Joanna, I was never, ever bored by her.
There are a lot of side characters in this book, and because we meet all of them through Joanna’s journalling, there’s no way of knowing how accurate her perceptions of any of them are. For example, Terri doesn’t come off well when seen through Joanna’s eyes, and I would LOVE to have a sneak peek into Terri’s diary, because I bet there was much more to her than what Joanna shared.
The Writing Style
This is one of those books that will likely either be very much for you, or very much not for you, and it all comes down to how much you can connect with Joanna and the way she channels her feelings into her journal. The diary format isn’t often used in lesfic and it’s a perfect vehicle for Joanna’s journey as she moves from pining for Terri to a much more stable emotional situation. If you check out Lisa Gitlin’s bio on the Bywater Books website, you’ll see that Joanna’s story pretty closely follows her own life experiences, which I suspect gives the book an authenticity that may not have been possible otherwise.
I guarantee you’ve never met anyone quite like Joanna in lesbian fiction before. Reading this book was like watching a trainwreck in slow motion, and I mean that in the best possible way.
This isn’t a con, but like I said above, this book will either be for you or it won’t. It’s definitely one of those YMMV (your mileage may vary) books.
Lisa Gitlin wrote one hell of a debut novel with I Came Out for This?, and I’m looking forward to her next book, which is coming out later this year. I don’t know if I’ll read this book again, but I’m certain that I’ll never, ever forget it. Salem West recommended it when she came on my podcast and I’m so glad she did.
Excerpt from I Came Out for This? by Lisa Gitlin
After we polished off the wine, I thought it would be nice to cozy up on the couch, but instead Terri ushered me into her office and fired up her computer and started telling me about all the women she was meeting in this chat room called the “pink palace.”At first, I thought, “Well, she must not be all that excited about the publicity agent if she’s going online to meet women,”but then she started showing me photographs of these women she was meeting and I started getting depressed. I tried to be polite about the photos and said, “Oh, she’s cute”about the first one and “Pretty hot”about the second one, but when she showed me a third one of some redhead I snapped, “She is dreadful. I don’t know how you can even look at her.”The woman really wasn’t that bad, but I was so furious that it just slipped out. Terri got rid of her, but then, not taking the hint that I wasn’t exactly having the time of my life, she started telling me about this Montana housewife named “Darla”that she was having cyber sex with. For God’s sake. But did I have the good sense to say, “You know what? I really don’t want to do this.”No! I just stood there and pretended to be interested. (When I went home, I called Karen in Cleveland and she said, “You should have just gone home at that point.”Duh.)
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781932859737
- Publisher: Bywater Books
Lisa Gitlin Online
Note: I received a free review copy of I Came Out for This? by Lisa Gitlin. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion I refuse to review books.