My interest in Faraway came after reviewing an earlier book by Daniel Mauer, the graphic novel, Sobriety, which explored twelve steps recovery. Here Maurer lends his skill as a freelance writer to aid an old seminary friend, R.K. Kline, in telling his story. Mauer and Kline were both ministers in the ELCA (Mauer left the ministry, Kline is still a pastor today). Faraway tells the story of the openly gay, Kline coming to terms with his sexuality in his teen years. It also tells a horrfiying tale of how he was groomed and recruited into prostitution at the age of 14.
It was the 1970s when Kline first discovered his same-sex attraction. With sleepovers and an active ‘gaydar’ he began to experiment sexually with other boys. One boy from school, named Tim groomed him and introduced him to Ray, the adult with a van who would become his pimp.
Some of Kline’s experiences as a teenage hustler were enjoyable to him. Others were profoundly damaging and frightening. He found himself the victim of perversion and violence. But he also befriended two other boys, Stevie and Squirrel, who became his community and protection on the street. Kline would tell his parents he was sleeping over at a friend’s family house, and then turn tricks in the park with Stevie and Squirrel.
By the end of the summer of 1975, Squirrel was beaten violently by a police officer, nd a few weeks later died in a tragic accident. By the fall, Stevie died of alcoholism on the street. Kline is suicidal (saved only because the gun he had access to was an 1860 replica muzzle loaded pistol and it was hard to commit suicide while drunk).
This isn’t what you call a happy story and theologically I have my misgivings (I pastor in a denomination that is welcoming but not affirming of an LGBTQ lifestyle. But this is a human story. Kline struggles with the way his same-sex attraction cut himself off from the community (suburban Missouri was not exactly supportive of alternative lifestyles in the mid 1970s). As awful as it was for a fourteen-year-old to turn tricks, he finds acceptance with his fellow street hustlers. There was something broken in the lives of Stevie and Squirrel but there was also something beautiful about Kline’s friendship with them and the way he pays tribute to their lives.
This is a well written memoir. It is also graphic and disturbing. There are plenty of folks I would not recommend this book to and would issue disclaimers to those who I would. But it a real–ugly and beautiful and ultimately redemptive story. It is sad that Kline and his three friends were sexually misused in their teens. Sadder to that it still happens. I give this four stars.
Notice of material connection: I received this book from the publisher or author via SpeakEasy in exchange for my honest review.