Read This Book

This Book Will Make You Ugly Cry

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Kendra Winchester

Contributing Editor

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 the most devastating (in the best possible way) books that I’ve read this year.

a graphic of the cover of All the World Beside by Garrard Conley

All the World Beside by Garrard Conley

I first discovered Garrard Conley through his bestselling memoir Boy Erased, which was made into a movie starring Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe. Boy Erased follows his experience when his parents learn that he’s gay and send him to conversion therapy. Now Conley is back, but this time with his debut novel.

All the World Beside follows two men, minister Nathaniel Whitfield and physician Arthur Lyman, living in Puritan New England in the early 18th century. When Nathaniel and Arthur begin their affair, they never expected their relationship to turn into an all-encompassing force that consumes them and their families.

Nathaniel is a preacher from England who has created his own community in the new world that he calls Cana. There, he and his followers wait for an “Awakening” that will prove that their community is truly blessed by God, that they have found the one true way, that they are chosen by God.

Conley delves into ideas around faith and belief, and what it means to truly believe in the love of God, but you don’t have to be a Christian or even a person of any faith to appreciate the multiple layers that Conley weaves into this novel. The universal ideas of love and connection in the face of a ridiculous number of obstacles make this novel accessible to just about any kind of reader.

Pete Cross performs the audiobook edition of the novel, creating this quiet, intimate sort of listening experience that makes you feel as if you are right there, part of the community watching Nathaniel and Arthur risk everything for their relationship.

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