William Lyon's past forced him to become someone he isn't. Conflicted and unable to maintain the charade, he separates from his wife and takes a job as caretaker at a former mental hospital. Jelley’s Valley State Insane Asylum was the largest mental hospital in California for well over a century, but it now stands empty. William thinks the decrepit institution is the perfect place to finish his dissertation and wait for his divorce to become final. In town, William meets Colby Anderson, who minds the local store and post office. Unlike William, Colby is cute, upbeat, and flamboyantly out. Although initially put off by Colby’s mannerisms, William comes to value their new friendship, and even accepts Colby's offer to ease him into the world of gay sex.
William’s self-image begins to change when he discovers a tin box, hidden in an asylum wall since the 1940s. It contains letters secretly written by Bill, a patient who was sent to the asylum for being homosexual. The letters hit close to home, and William comes to care about Bill and his fate. With Colby’s help, he hopes the words written seventy years ago will give him courage to be his true self.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I'll start off by saying you will definitely need tissues when you read this story. When William found the letters from 1938 that Bill wrote to Johnny and started reading them, my heart broke. William's story isn't exactly all balloons and unicorns but those letters really touched me. Now, in regards to William's story, I would have liked to have a bit more insight into exactly what he dealt with in his youth when he was being "cured" but I understood that it wasn't necessary for the tale to move forward. Colby is a delight, his lessons for William are upbeat and adds moments of much needed lightness. Having said that, I think Colby is a complex character that most readers, myself included, pre-judge him as a bit flakey. Colby and William's interactions are a lovely heartwarming companion to Bill's heartbreaking letters. This is a story that will definitely put the reader through the wringer but it's a ride that is worth every page turning(or tablet swiping) minute.