Verdict: Simon Says is journey of self-destruction, self-discovery and ultimately, redemption. And while Poe depicts a familiar story of downward decline, his novel has more complexity than the traditional “downfall tales” we’ve come to know.
Author William Poe’s heart wrenching novel begins with central character Simon Powell, recounting a sexual experience with a childhood friend.
The two, just boys at the time, were engaged in an innocent, but physical relationship. Simon recalls his mother coming into the room and scolding him and the boy, who subsequently dropped out of school by eleventh grade and was dead of an overdose at twenty-two.
Simon is a gay man, yet the homophobia he encounters from his family—and even from himself—prevents him from experiencing the fulfillment he so desperately craves. Brought up in a devoutly religious home, he has been indoctrinated to believe that homosexuality is an abomination and that in order to be right with God he must repress his true feelings.
Eventually Simon attempts to fill his emotional void by joining The Unification Church, a religious sect headed by Reverend Sun Myung Moon. Simon spends ten years adhering to the harsh limitations and heterosexual lifestyle promoted by the church, until he meets a charismatic man named Lyle. Lyle, who is also gay, sweeps Simon off his feet. When their relationship ends, Simon, is left to try and make sense of his life. With nowhere else to go, Simon returns to the place he fled from so many years ago: home. There he finds that his father is dying, leaving Simon as his primary caregiver. When Simon’s father finally passes away, he is devastated. Eventually, he decides to move to Hollywood with Lyle, where he inevitably falls into a hard life of drugs and sex addiction.
Simon Says is journey of self-destruction, self-discovery and ultimately, redemption. And while Poe depicts a familiar story of downward decline, his novel has more complexity than the traditional “downfall tales” we’ve come to know. While Poe’s Simon begins at a low point—the reader knows almost from the start that he’s destined for a fall—there is also an inevitable and heart-warming rise that makes this a book worth reading.
Reviewed by Rebecca Nichloson for IndieReader