I Came Out for This? – Lisa Gitlin (Bywater Books)

Buy it direct from Bywater Books or at our Amazon.com store to help support our blog – I Came Out for This?: A Novel

I always enjoy first person books. They’re immediate and personal, and you really get to know the POV character in ways other points of view don’t allow you to experience. That character also has to be strong enough to support the book, and Lisa Gitlin has a winner in Joanna Kane, the main character in I Came Out for This?

Joanna is newly-out at the age of 45 and if that wasn’t tough enough, she fell in hard in love and was dumped. But she hasn’t figured that out. In fact, she moves from her Cleveland home all the way to Washington DC in order to be with her ex, Terri, a woman who barely knows she’s alive. But that’s not really true. Joanna is alive enough for Terri to tease and taunt with possibilities, none of which will ever come to pass. Can Joanna move along and find true happiness in her seedy DC apartment populated by sketchy, transient boarders? Can she and Terri peacefully coexist in the DC lesbian dating scene? Will she survive psychotherapy? Will she get out of jail?

I’d rather let Joanna tell you in her own hilarious words. Lisa Gitlin has a wonderfully realized character in Joanna Kane; one with wit and wonder but more importantly, one with whom it’s easy to identify. We’ve all been out on the fringes at one time or another, living lives our families and friends couldn’t understand. Kane’s journey out there and back is one we know well, and she deals with the roadblocks she encounters with sass and verve.

The voice? Well, it’s soft and hard, soothing and haranguing, full of hope and despair—sometimes in the same sentence—but Joanna is never, ever boring. She is occasionally frustrating in her worship of a woman who clearly cares nothing for her, but in time that becomes part of her charm. Just like a good friend, you want to cheer for her when she does something brilliant and slap her when she’s stupid. And Joanna’s insights into the somewhat incestuous lesbian dating world are hysterical and, I believe, totally accurate.

I Came Out For This? is a great summer read. Its intriguing voice draws you back for more like a cool, refreshing dip in the pool, and its warm sense of wonder and discovery will keep you comfortable even after the sun goes down. 

Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler

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