Summary: When Alex sees his friend’s father kissing a woman who isn’t his wife, his already fragile hold on faith in God is shaken as the man is a prominent member of the Catholic church Alex attends. As Alex struggles with his faith, he also finds himself dealing with a brother who is struggling to claim his sexual identity, and a girlfriend who is exploring her own beliefs. Challenged by various situations to re-evaluate his convictions, Alex is faced with deciding what is truly important, and the need to examine how far he is willing to go to meet God in the middle.
Number of Pages: 131
Age Range: 15-17
Review: Out by Sandra Diersch is aptly titled but not for entirely the reason you might think. Yes, Alex’s brother does come out as gay and a large portion of the book is about others’ negative and homophobic attitudes toward this. But it’s also about Alex outing himself as a doubter.
Raised in a religious family with a devout Catholic father and a mother who converted, Alex is trying to come to terms with the fact that he doesn’t feel God anymore. It’s something that has been brewing inside him for a while it seems, but seeing a man he believes is a good Christian committing adulterous acts seems to be his breaking point. If such a man can pretend to be pious and betray his wife in secret, then what hope does anyone have to truly believe and follow God?
What I love about Alex’s story though is how his brother clues him in to the true nature of faith. His brother, who prays fervently to God to change his situation, understands that faith is not a one way street, it involves give and take from both parties. It’s more than just a feeling. Alex’s mother also reiterates that doubt is normal, and even if Alex’s dad doesn’t doubt at all, it doesn’t mean Alex is wrong to harbour his own doubts.
It’s a brief but thought-provoking story, skimming the surface as an introductory novel to deeper questions of faith and acceptance.
“‘It must be great to go through life never having a doubt, or a question about God or faith, eh?’ Riley said, drumming his fingers on the door.” – Riley from Out by Sandra Diersch, page 34
“‘Don’t ask, don’t tell – is that what you’re saying, Fletcher?’ Garrett said at last. ‘Sorry, I’m not going to hide who I am just to make everyone else feel better. If I want to hold my boyfriend’s hand walking down the street, then why shouldn’t I? Why is it so different when I do it?'” – Garrett from Out by Sandra Diersch, page 92
“Now Alex knew that even if you don’t play with fire you can get burned, that sometimes being yourself leaves you open to hatred, and that faith is a very fragile thing.” – Alex from Out by Sandra Diersch, page 131