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In his first novel, Joe Gaspard paints a sympathetic portrait of a practitioner of “reparative therapy,” who wonders what his own life might have been if he hadn’t spent a fretful night (selectively) reading Leviticus in a college dorm with his future wife. Now, years later, he cares for her dogs, supports her political ambitions, and dons an uncomfortably hot and restrictive full-body dog costume once a year at an eelpout festival. For fun, he occasionally plays cribbage with his friend Bob.

There are intended similarities, but Giff and his wife Gretchen are entirely fictitious and not painted as caricatures of Minnesota’s first couple of reparative therapy and political insanity, Marcus and Michele. They don’t have 29 foster children, for one thing. They are not clearly bonkers, for another.

The anti-gay protesters from a church in Kansas that descend upon Bemidji, Minnesota should be entirely fictitious, but sadly are all too real. There is no sympathy in their portrayal, though it seems unfair that their bus should be allowed to ramble unscathed out of town without so much as a minor encounter with a Ford Focus-sized meteorite, or an unfortunate plunge to the icy bottom of a deep lake.

The novel offers no neat solution—such as a well-aimed meteorite—to the problem of religious bigotry. Is does pose a question: Is the young man Giff sees through the mask of his dog costume on frozen Leech Lake a therapeutic failure, or success?

Giff cover imageGet your copy of Giff, in paperback or for the Kindle, at Amazon.com.

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