Stop playing with yourself

Novels about coming-of-age in oppressive religions must contain dilemmas with masturbation—and Tony DuShane’s debut novel about life as a Jehovah’s Witness is no exception. Yet, unlike similar novels, DuShane’s protagonist doesn’t get annoying. In fact, it’s almost heart-wrenching that Gabe is tormented with fear that playing with himself will ensure smiting from God. The novel is ripe with other dilemmas afflicting J.W. children: finding normality in a dysfunctional family, dreading knocking on classmates’ doors while preaching. DuShane flows from humorously absurd tales (overhearing his father lecture a married couple for accidentally having anal sex) to more serious issues about the organization’s inner workings, including the protagonist’s excommunication from the church and thereby his friends and family. DuShane shines a bright light on the hidden world of J.W.s with minimalist eloquence, well-timed humor and raw honesty.