Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Sin-Eaters Confession by Lisa J. Bick

Ben has made some bad decisions. For his whole life, he has done what is expected of him. He gets good grades and volunteers at the local emergency room. Ben's mother hopes that he will go to Yale and medical school. She has been 'guiding' him in that direction for a long time. His dad, a police officer, is more laid back about it.

When a family loses their oldest son in a car accident, Ben's follows his dad's suggestion and helps out on their diary farm. He and the younger son, Jimmy, spend hours milking cows and bailing hay. Ben feels like an older brother to Jimmy and likes hanging out with him. It is during a hot day of work that Jimmy secretly snaps a photo of Ben napping shirtless in the hay. Jimmy enters the photo in a contest and the it is published in a national magazine. The photo has a sensual quality to it that leads people to assume that Ben and Jimmy are gay. Jimmy's ultra-religious father is furious at him. He orders Ben to stay away from Jimmy and never come back to the farm.

Ben is not happy either. He is the subject of rumors and begins to question his own sexuality. He decides to confront Jimmy to ask what he was thinking. At the meeting at the coffee shop connected to his parent's church, Jimmy pleads for Ben's help. He sees photography as his only escape from his parents. A request to meet again leads Ben back to the shop the following evening only to see Jimmy get into a car with strangers and drive off.

At this point, Ben starts making the bad decisions. He witnesses a horrific crime and offers no help, not even calling the police or his dad. Ben is trapped by his own guilt. He fears getting caught by the authorities, but cannot bring himself to come clean about what he knows.

Even though I wanted Ben to do the right thing, I was mesmerized by his continual struggle as events unfolded. There was a situation where I was pleading for Ben to stop what he was doing, but I as unsure as he was at that point and I wasn't totally convinced he was wrong.

This is gut wrenching story of a life changed by one night and a choice to not do the right thing. It's messy and ambiguous at times . Ben's struggle is one I will remember for a long time.

For more info, check out the Evergreen Library catalog and the author's website.

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