Review: Prayers For Bobby

Prayers For Bobby: A Mother’s Coming to Terms with the Suicide of her Gay Son

By Leroy Aarons
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Pub. Date: September 1996
ISBN-13: 9780062511232
Here’s the blurb from Barnes & Noble:
Bobby Griffith was an all-American boy …and he was gay. Faced with an irresolvable conflict-for both his family and his religion taught him that being gay was “wrong”-Bobby chose to take his own life.

Prayers for Bobby, nominated for a 1996 Lambda Literary Award, is the story of the emotional journey that led Bobby to this tragic conclusion. But it is also the story of Bobby’s mother, a fearful churchgoer who first prayed that her son would be “healed,” then anguished over his suicide, and ultimately transformed herself into a national crusader for gay and lesbian youth.

As told through Bobby’s poignant journal entries and his mother’s reminiscences, Prayers for Bobby is at once a moving personal story, a true profile in courage, and a call to arms to parents everywhere.

The Short of It:

A tragic story of a young boy, trying to find himself and the Mother that realized too late that her son was not evil and was in fact, desperate for the love and acceptance of a supportive family.

My Thoughts:

Bobby realizes at a very young age that he is different from the other boys. As he grows older, he begins to experiment with sex and realizes that he is, in fact, gay. Unfortunately, his Mother, who is very religious believes that Bobby’s “affliction” is caused by the Devil and that he is being lured into this lifestyle and that God will heal him.

Although Mary continues to believe that God can heal all, Bobby’s other siblings have learned to accept Bobby for who he is and try to support him but at this point Bobby is frustrated and confused and not sure what to think. He believes himself to be evil and ugly and notes this in the journal that he keeps.

After Bobby commits suicide, Mary begins to read his journals and it’s only then that she realizes her mistake. Bobby was not “healable” because there was nothing wrong with him to begin with. After this revelation she goes on a mission to save other kids like Bobby and through her efforts, many congregations begin to incorporate gay references into its liturgy.

I had to stop reading this a few times because the subject matter was very depressing. As a mother, I cannot even imagine what Mary went through when she realized her mistake. I mean, this is a true story and Bobby’s journal entries are so wrought with pain that it just tugs at your heart.

However, towards the end of the book, I felt as if it fell out of balance a bit. The last third of the book focuses on Mary’s cause and getting the church to acknowledge gays and lesbians. This was a bit tedious for me and I skimmed a lot of it.

Overall, this isn’t really a book you’d pick up on your own. My book club selected this book for June and we are discussing it this Thursday so I am looking forward to seeing what issues are discussed and “how” they are discussed because of the touchy subject matter (homosexuality, religion, suicide).

Lifetime aired a movie version based on the book. The trailer for it looks pretty good but I haven’t seen the movie yet.

What do you think of the trailer? We are watching a movie during our discussion of the book but not this movie since many of the members had already seen it. Instead we are watching For The Bible Tells Me So.

10 thoughts on “Review: Prayers For Bobby”

  1. Sorry about the spacing. Blogger is being a major PILL today and no matter what I do the spacing is all wonky.

  2. What an interesting choice for book club. I’m sure you’ll have good discussions at your meeting.

    I can see why you’d have to ‘get away’ from the story at times. You did a great job on your review!

  3. What a heartbreaking story. It’s so sad that Bobby’s mother had to learn tolerance in such a difficult manner.

  4. Well I can imagine that this book will generate a lot of discussion for your book club. I've never heard of this one but it sounds interesting even though it really is sad. How sad for Bobby though to never be understood his whole life to the point where he doesn't want to go on anymore.

  5. This does sound really depressing. I think I saw some of the movie. It's sad how much learning we all have to do. I wonder sometimes, what ways I'm treating people because of something I simply don't understand.

  6. It’s a very sad story and I agree with you, Ti, that you wouldn’t likely pick up the book unless you had maybe read a news or magazine article about the story. I saw the TV movie on YouTube and it was quite heartbreaking, but had some great performances (I’m a big fan of Sigourney Weaver). I might try the book some day, but the movie was good enough for now.

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