Rating: 4.25 stars
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Unbroken is a story that follows Lincoln de Chabert from kindergarten to middle-age, as he struggles with coming out, finding himself, and finding love. From an early age, Lincoln’s parents were afraid of all the parts of him that they felt indicated he was gay. He was small and beautiful and used his hands to speak. When his parents criticized him for the way he expressed himself, he stopped speaking almost all together.
At school, things weren’t much easier. He never pretended to be something he wasn’t, and the kids at school punished him for it, until he met a boy who taught him how to defend himself and also how to love another guy. When he literally gets caught with his pants down, his boyfriend enlists in the military, and Lincoln continues on, even more determined to leave his family and community behind and finally be himself. Since he was a little boy, Lincoln has loved Jose, who has been his unconditional friend, but he knows Jose, with his perfect girlfriend, doesn’t feel the same. When Jose and Lincoln end up roommates at college together, his life starts to change.
This novel takes place over many years, and Benjamin not only tells a story, but also gives the reader a snippet of history at the beginning of each chapter to help explain the setting. I’m not sure I loved this aspect of the novel, since, “Hey. You’re in 1982 and this is what was happening.” felt forced to me. I do think that the timing of the novel was important, since it set the stage for the rampant bigotry and the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic, but otherwise, it wasn’t all that significant to the story. I felt like the introductory descriptions of the important events of the year really just took me out of the story more than anything.
The first half of this novel was engrossing, and I didn’t want to put it down. There was an epic love story here, right from the beginning, and waiting years and years for it to finally come together was both maddening and thrilling. There’s something so wonderful about years of angst and longing finally coming together, and while sometimes I get impatient while taking the journey, I’m always happy to have done it. This is the case with Unbroken. The love story is everything you want it to be and more, and the characters are fully developed and realized and, while they’re not perfect, do feel like they’re made for each other.
I had a difficult time with the last half of this novel. This novel may have just spanned too many years and would’ve best been written as a sequel instead. It seemed to drag on long after I was happy and satisfied and, while what was happening was important to the lives of the characters, it got to be a bit too much for me. I also had a problem with the random flashback scenes in the novel, which I felt was just an easy way to explain something that had occurred, but seemed confusing and strange and disrupted the flow of the novel.
Overall, though, I’d recommend this novel for the loveliness of the story and the endearing nature of the characters. I think, especially, if you were someone who lived through this time period, you could appreciate the obstacles that Lincoln faced and be even more appreciative of where he finds himself in the end.