Book Review: Real Life by Brandon Taylor


In my effort to read all books on the shortlist for the Booker Prize, I started with this novel, and I am so pleased I did.

On one hand, I’m an ally but not a member of the LGBTQ+ population, so reading the coming-of-age story of Wallace, a homosexual person of color, was as enlightening as it was heartbreaking.  The way Brandon Taylor gives us Wallace’s inner monologue allows readers to sit in his skin and deal with his emotions, just as he has to.  Such powerful writing from a debut author was a pleasure to read and loose myself.

On the other hand, I was able to relate to Wallace as an introvert.  It was easy to connect with the feelings of being “outside” his group of friends, and the anger and longing for love of peers that most introverts try to manage on a daily basis.  Just as Wallace needs to address his past and move into adulthood, we all relate to that on some level.  Wallace could be any of us, but he’s uniquely himself.

This is a fantastic book.  Totally deserving of it’s spot on the Booker Shortlist, and easily a contender for the Prize.

I would happily recommend this book if you’re looking for a heavier erudite read about fitting in and moving on.

Purchase your copy here.

Back Cover Copy of Real Life:

Almost everything about Wallace is at odds with the Midwestern university town where he is working uneasily toward a biochem degree. An introverted young man from Alabama, black and queer, he has left behind his family without escaping the long shadows of his childhood. For reasons of self-preservation, Wallace has enforced a wary distance even within his own circle of friends—some dating each other, some dating women, some feigning straightness. But over the course of a late-summer weekend, a series of confrontations with colleagues, and an unexpected encounter with an ostensibly straight, white classmate, conspire to fracture his defenses while exposing long-hidden currents of hostility and desire within their community.

Real Life is a novel of profound and lacerating power, a story that asks if it’s ever really possible to overcome our private wounds, and at what cost.

About Brandon Taylor:

Brandon Taylor is the senior editor of Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading and a staff writer at Literary Hub. His writing has earned him fellowships from Lambda Literary Foundation, Kimbilio Fiction, and the Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop. He holds graduate degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Iowa, where he was an Iowa Arts Fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in fiction.

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