The Complex Truths That Make Up a Family

Kendra Winchester is a Contributing Editor for Book Riot where she writes about audiobooks and disability literature. She is also the Founder of Read Appalachia, which celebrates Appalachian literature and writing. Previously, Kendra co-founded and served as Executive Director for Reading Women, a podcast that gained an international following over its six-season run. In her off hours, you can find her writing on her Substack, Winchester Ave, and posting photos of her Corgis on Instagram and Twitter @kdwinchester.

Welcome to Read this Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that needs to jump onto your TBR pile! Sometimes these books are brand new releases that I don’t want you to miss, while others are some of my backlist favorites. This week, let’s talk about one of my under-the-radar favorites of 2024.

a graphic of the cover of No Son of Mine by Jonathan Corcoran

No Son of Mine: A Memoir by Jonathan Corcoran

In the spring of 2020, Jonathan Corcoran and his partner contracted COVID-19 and bunkered down to weather through this as-of-yet-unknown illness in the middle of New York City. While he was quarantining, Corcoran received the news that his mother had died. 

Corcoran grew up in a small town in West Virginia. His mother tried to hold the family together as Corcoran’s father gambled away what little money they had. When he managed to get into Brown University, Corcoran thought he could be free to live his life as a gay man without ever coming out to his family and friends back home. But when he had just turned 20, his mother found out he was gay and disowned him.

No Son of Mine follows Corcoran’s experience as a gay, Appalachian man trying to come into his own, in spite of his homophobic family. But even with the difficulties he faced, his story is also full of love. He met his husband, Sam, when they were in college, and they’ve been together ever since. His chosen family of friends shows up for him time and time again.

Corcoran’s portrait of his mother—and the rest of his family—is full of a love that seems to never lose hope that his loved ones might change. He extends forgiveness and understanding, only to find himself back in the same cycle of hurtful conversations and not-so-subtle threats. No matter what happens in his life, his mother always looms in the background, leaving him voicemails and promising that this time it will be different. This time, she’s really sorry. 

No Son of Man examines the complex truths that make up a family; how can you love someone who you also know will always hurt you in the end? How do you maintain boundaries in the situation? When do you know that it’s worth giving someone you love another chance?

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