Raised as a preacher in an ultra conservative, fire and brimstone religious family, Isaac Roberts believes in the scriptures that homosexuality is not only a sin, but a choice. Isaac’s sister Ruth wants to produce a documentary featuring Isaac choosing to be gay and turning from the lifestyle. Isaac’s primary motivation is his nephew Griffin, who is suspected of being gay, and is undergoing treatments to “cure” him. Isaac wants to help his Griffin, and feels that the film will help him to avoid the “perverted path.”
Once in Seattle, Isaac visits Capitol ONE, a popular gay bar, and quickly meets a man, but the man is not who he appears to be. When Isaac is rescued from a beating in the alley behind the club where Colton works, Colton takes Isaac to the hospital and then home, showing kindness and compassion. Bruised and sore, Isaac returns to Capitol ONE and meets Colton again, and they agree to coffee. Isaac admits he is new to the lifestyle and needs help adapting, asking Colton to help. Colton can’t not help Isaac and offers to help him get a job at the bar.
Thinking that Colton can be his guide to the gay lifestyle, Isaac spends a week regrouping, trying to gather the courage to return to Capitol ONE and the chance at a job. Tim, the owner isn’t sure, but gives Isaac a chance, pairing Isaac up with Colton, the bar’s best trainer. Isaac turns out to be a quick study and, day after day, he and Colton grow closer as friends. Their close friendship is soon leads to Isaac visiting Colton’s church and meeting so many displaced LGBT youth, learning their stories, and realizing that his church may have contributed to the problem.
Isaac is still focused on the film to prove being gay is a choice, but has doubts, doubts that his filmmaker sister Ruth admits to having as well, while Colton is scared, nervous, and happy that he has finally met a man like Isaac, a man who would not hurt him like all the men in his terrible past. Isaac’s feelings for Colton are also growing, and both men want to take things slow for their own reasons, but none of that changes the fact that Isaac is haunted by the sermons vilifying homosexuality, and in the end, he must choose to be straight again.
I want to start by saying I am not a religious person. This is not a story that will appeal to everyone because of the religious topic, and still this is a story that everyone should consider reading.
Although I did really like Isaac and Colton, and I felt that Gallagher did a decent job with them and their development, I felt that they were secondary to the main plot, which was that homosexuality was a choice and the ensuing debate throughout the story about different people’s interpretation of the Book. Their growth as friends, which eventually led to some intimacy, was very subtle and was described just enough to support and advance the plot. Both of the guys came from different backgrounds and experienced difficult challenges, and used those life experiences as a vehicle for moving forward. Want imperfect and flawed characters? Look no further than Lead Me Not.
I will admit that I did attend French Catholic school for eight years and can say that at one point, I knew the bible pretty well, but we were never taught hatred and intolerance at my school. As a result, I found the discussions and interpretations of the various scriptures to be enlightening and interesting. I also agreed with many of the statements made by Pastor Mike, Colton’s mentor and friend, but could also see the flip-side, how the same verse can be twisted a thousand different ways to suit one’s needs.
All of these elements combined made for an engaging read, and although extremely heavy on the religious content, with good reason, I did not find said content to be overdone and it never felt like too much. I will admit that I had to put the book down at one point during Isaac’s journey of self-discovery as I found his actions sad and painful to watch; this to me shows that Gallagher managed to draw me in and to empathize with the characters.
Now I have discussed the positive aspects of the story, I also need to address some things that pulled me out of the story and made me backtrack. There were a few scene jumps that felt off, like the continuity was interrupted. One moment we were in one scene, and the next, we were somewhere else, with nothing to explain or bridge the gaps.
I commend Gallagher for not only taking on a hot button topic in Lead Me Not, but for handling the subject matter respectfully, with balance and compassion for the struggles of the many types of characters portrayed in the story.