This is one of those reviews that is tough to write, not because of the subject matter or the content, or even the writing style. But because this is just a bad book. I mean seriously. Maybe if the description of it wasn’t different I wouldn’t dislike it as much, but…I mean honestly? I see it won/nominated for awards and I all I can think is…how? Did they just read the description and not read the book? Did someone just write the title in and they went “Oh yes this sounds great!”? What?? And the cover, with a man gazing longingly into her reflection as the woman she was meant to be? That is such a great image…except it isn’t Adam or Audrey and really has nothing to do with the book other than to capture people off guard and sell the book as “this will tear your soul out and make you have hope for the impossible!” Seriously. That’s the purpose of it. Wait…I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Let’s start from the beginning. From the description of the book it sounds like a wife/loved one talked about her ex coming out as trans and transitioning into the woman that she was born to be. And this is the type of book that is needed in the trans community. How do the people around you deal with the transition? What are some of the problem they’re likely to run into? How does it affect marriage? And so on. And as someone that’s genderqueer I’ve been looking for books like this to give to people I know to help better explain things. But this book does none of that. At all. Like none of these questions are answered or addressed. Instead this is Alex’s (Alexandra’s) story of how her world fell apart when Adam came out as trans. And how she experienced a “Woe is me” epic for the ages and how “Adam” ruined her life by coming out as trans. Seriously. That’s what this is.
The first half of the book is literally building up to their wedding. I’d say it presents a view of Adam/Audrey so we can understand her later, but it doesn’t. It presents a view of how Alex remembers Adam, which is none too kindly. Even when she’s in love with him, she describes all the things about him that get on her nerves and how he seems to be less of a normal man, blah, blah, blah. It never reads as a love story at all or give any real indications of Adam other than as a set piece for her wedding. Which by the way was held on a horse racing field. During the weekend of a horse race. And on TV. She even talks about everyone tried to tell her not to do this, but she was dead set on it and specifically mentions convincing Adam, her parents, and his parents to go along with it. I mention this because it comes up again later. And then it delves into their two years of being married together as “being roommates.” Oh she was still in love, they just didn’t see each other often because they worked opposite schedules. And then when they were going on their last trip together (unbeknownst to her at the time) she bitches and moans because he’s an insensitive clot and left his passport somewhere else and wasn’t going to be able to join her than evening, but the next day. And of course he’s evil because of this. And maybe he’s cheating on her! Or maybe he’s now injured! Who knows?! But he shows up and they have a decent time until she decides to be passive aggressive towards him and on their last day he wants to visit a shoe museum! DUH DUH. Cue the dramatic foreshadowing.
And then when they come back Adam tells her to come to his psychiatrist’s office with him. Demands it really. And that’s when she finds out. Adam is really Audrey. And of course she’s crushed. She doesn’t know what to do! This is the love of her life. And he’s really a woman. Named Audrey. She says she still loves him, but she wants a divorce. And Audrey agrees. She wakes up and discovers him gone, no note, no nothing, and her first thought is “he must have committed suicide!” But she comes home and says “Don’t you remember I said I had to go to work?” No! Of course I don’t! Why didn’t you stay with me!
…only she doesn’t say that last part. I think she meant too, but didn’t and regrets it. And that’s what the rest of the book is. Audrey doesn’t appear after she moves out except in a few sentences here and there. This book tells nothing of her transition. Or the problems that Alex encountered other than those of her own making. The rest of the book is literally about Alex whining and wasting her life away. When Audrey came out I can understand how hurt and confused Alex was. And I can understand wanting the divorce as well. But what comes after? Yeah I don’t get that. At all. Everytime she writes about Audrey from then on, she purposefully misgenders her, referring her to as “he” and “him” and on at least one occasion “it.” She writes about how her family and friends all hate Audrey and the, well frankly, transphobic and bigoted things they say about her. She moves back in with her mom and tries to start again. Only horror of horrors! Her newspaper is sold and she’s pissed they didn’t even give her a heads up that it was coming (she says this. Seriously.) And fate is so cruel to do this to her, even though the new owners want to keep her on! REALLY???!!? Fate is cruel because of this?? Only she doesn’t get the job, because she blew the interview. ON PURPOSE! I get not wanting to work for a company she might not like, but…ARGHHHHHHHH!!!
Hrm. Ok. I’m calm now. So she gets a new job, moves out of her mom’s house and life goes on. Fifteen years worth. And she still blames Audrey for her problems! “Oh woe is me! I can’t have kids because of Audrey!” “Oh woe is me! I can never love again!” Fifteen years passes and she’s barely had anything to do with Audrey, but it’s Audrey’s fault. Audrey undergoes her transition and Alex implies that she got the money illegally, because, well she never had the money when they were together. Audrey still owes her money from their wedding! The one that was huge and magnificent that she didn’t really want that big….And holy cow! Her identity was stolen and someone filed a return in her name one year and surely, surely it must be Audrey! Because they used her married name, from when she was married to Audrey! Alex even goes so far as to contact her ex brother-in-law, a tax person to look into it! Audrey didn’t react strongly to the passing of Alex’s cat and that was a sign she didn’t really care about her. Oh and she didn’t call Alex on her birthday! How dare she! How dare she pick up on the clues that Alex wanted nothing to do with her, so she didn’t call or try to keep in contact with her at all. HOW DARE SHE LIVE HER LIFE! Hrm. A police officer friend starts calling Alex on her shit (rightly so) saying things along the lines of “Seriously? How is Audrey stopping you from living? LIVE. Go do things! Go date again. She’s living her life, why aren’t you living yours?”
And that’s what brings us to this book. Alex decides that she needs to write this story as a way of helping her move on. She reaches out to Audrey while she’s at work and says “I’m going to write this book. It’s going to be about my life with you in it. Are you ok with it?”, and horror of horrors! Audrey says she can’t talk while at work! OMFG! How dare she? Audrey calls Alex back after she gets off though and Audrey says, write the book. Do you. Alex explains that she’s already got a publisher, she’s got a lawyer so that she can make sure she isn’t sued for libel and so that Audrey can’t get any of the money from the book. SHE FUCKING WRITES THIS! SHE ADMITS IT! Alex then says “Well can I interview you?” to which Audrey replies “No. No this is about you. Not about me. And seriously it could hurt me here if it were to come out.” To which Alex thinks “Ungrateful bitch. Hurt her? Pfew! As if.” And then she researches trans rights and HOLY CRAP Audrey wasn’t lying! She could really die from assholes out there. And the book ends with Alex saying how the world is gray and dark and no one knows what the future holds but today…today she’s ok.
A reporter, decides to write about her life with Audrey and doesn’t do the research on it until she’s already come to her conclusions on what trans people go through. A reporter her spent the last fifteen years blaming her ex for her own passive aggressive behaviors writes a book about them and openly admits to making sure that her ex can’t sue her for libel and will never get money from the book. That’s what this book is. It’s not about trans rights or trans relationships. It’s about one woman taking advantage of the sudden rise in trans presence in the news to make money off of her “woe is me” story. That’s all it is. And all it will be. Ever. Alex doesn’t write about when Adam became Audrey. She writes about when she lost the person she loved and couldn’t move on. She couldn’t let her own hate and bigotry go to discover what really happens in the transgender world. And she decided to make money off of it.
I hate telling people not to read a book. Because effort went into it. Hopes and dreams and aspirations were poured into it. Even the bad ones. But this book does nothing to help the trans community or the LGBTQ community or anyone other than Alex. It helps promote transphobia, hate, and bigotry and it does nothing to talk about what happens to the loved ones of people that come out as trans, other than Alex’s personal story. If you want to read how not to treat people that comes out as trans, then this book is for you. Otherwise, leave this one behind to turn to dust.
Review copy provided by NetGalley