In 2011, a chapter from Matthew Deane's first book, West Of Independence won the Non-Fiction prize in the Seacoast Writers Association contest. His essays have been published on various writing websites, as well as on his blog, www.frogsdontweartights.com. Matthew now lives in the mountain town of Oakley, Utah with his wife and three children.
West Of Independenceby Matthew Deane
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West of Independence is the story of two brothers on distinct but inseparable journeys. Raised in a large Mormon family, the brothers find themselves at odds with their upbringing; Jared because he is gay, Matthew because he is too much like his father. As Jared fights to find happiness in a lifestyle he was raised to detest, Matthew struggles to become the man he wants to be without losing his faith. Overwhelmed by sadness, Jared decides to end his life by driving over the edge of the Grand Canyon. He makes it all the way from New Hampshire to Independence, Missouri, where his trip ends with a suicide attempt in a lonely motel room. Several months later, Matthew and Connor (their youngest brother) set out to complete Jared's trip to the Grand Canyon with him. Heading West from Independence, they pick cotton, take a walk on Mars, chase windmills, and meet a plastic eating cow, while at the same time repairing a relationship that has suffered from Matthew’s self-righteous attitude. West of Independence is an affecting tale of family conflict, the need to be loved, and the capacity for change.
- Matthew Deane
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Unfortunately, many people from a Mormon family (or, to be fair, families raised in many other conservative religions) that include a gay or lesbian sibling are going to recognize many elements of Matthew Deane’s story. Those who don’t either have families much more enlighted than the norm, or aren’t being honest with themselves. Deane’s story is well told and realistic (just because a story is true, doesn’t always mean it rings true). As I was thinking about the kind of reader who would benefit from reading West of Independence I realized that the appeal might be broader than I first thought. Many memoir readers choose to read stories from people unlike themselves to better understand views, thought processes, and experiences that are foreign to their world. Most people who fit this category would find this an interesting read. However, this story should especially appeal to anyone who has already been through a struggle like Deane’s (knowing you aren’t alone is always a positive). Those who need to go through the transformation that Deane experienced, but haven’t, might be the least likely to give this book a chance, but are the group who could benefit from it most of all. **Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy. **
West of Independence is a haunting narrative of the power of ancient biases conceived in antique notions of fear and intolerance and preserved in the stubbornness and dogma of modern times to disrupt the function of single minds and even closely-knit families. Matthew Deane's compassionate writing compels the reader to journey with him into his examination of these prejudices against homosexuality, alcoholism, and the accompanying depression. It is an enthralling tale of brotherhood at it's deepest levels and lends tear-jerking perspective on dysfunctional families. The duality of the narrative also shows a juxtaposition of heart-warming closeness and gut-wrenching despair that frequently accompanies the struggle to get along with one's family. One storyline follows Matthew as he watches his little brother Jared wrestle with the damning nature of his homosexuality and slowly descend into substance abuse and a suicide attempt in a sleazy motel room in Independence, Missouri. It also follows Matthew's life at home with his wife, Ella, arguably the story's most virtuous character, and his three children and his struggle with a stone-cold father, a cringing mother, and a cruel sister who, at one fell swoop, banished Jared from the family that over which she observed her self-affirmed rule with an iron fist and a warm smile. The other story line follows Matthew and Connor, the youngest of the Deane brothers as they traveled together in an homage to Jared to finish his road trip to the Grand Canyon, beginning where his trip ended: the motel in Independence. The novel keeps readers laughing, weeping, and locked in internal battle with one's own conscience, biases, and sense of family values. This is a book for all who wish to venture into every corner of the soul, from the memories of the East to the discoveries in the West.
Can you love a book that makes you squirm? YES! This was painfully gorgeous. As a member of the same religious community as the characters, this book FORCED me to look at myself in ways that were a teency bit uncomfortable. At the same time, I laughed out loud several times. If you are interested in a story that makes you think, cry and LAUGH, this book is for you!
Ignore this rating. I accidentally touched the stars and apparently rated this book, which was never my intention. B&N will not let me delete it. I just thought I'd clarify.
I can’t help but wonder if the title of Matthew Deane’s “West of Independence” is a subtle reworking of Steinbeck’s more famous title “East of Eden” and, just as compass points are reversed, if the Super Budget Motor Hotel in Independence, Missouri is to be understood as the opposite of Paradise. The paths of two brothers begin at this location, though on different timelines. Their journeys are cleverly juxtaposed throughout the book to reveal bit by bit the hearts of two good but tortured men. Jared has been pummeled by cultural biases and family disfunction towards a hell of depression, alcoholism and an almost inevitable suicide attempt at the seedy motel. Though he survives the attempt, he must still face the same demons as he struggles to recover. Matthew’s journey begins months later, and is more a road trip of redemption as he battles to escape his own fiery pit of guilt and despair. Despite these potentially dark themes, Deane’s stories remain hopeful in tone, even light, as comic interludes pepper the narrative. The stories are all true, which makes them all the more poignant. Without resorting to sermonizing, the stories nonetheless preach a gospel of love and acceptance which, though few achieve to perfection, is worth reaching for every day. It’s a remarkable first effort by an author from whom we can only hope to hear more.
Mathew Deane's first book, West of Independence, is like southern food; it sticks to your ribs and is good for the soul. Mathew takes us through a voyeuristic journey of self realization in the midst of others at different points on the same traveled road. Check your judgement about family, religion and yourself at the dust-jacket and feast upon this soul food.