Yeaaahh... props to the author for going there but I don't think I'm ever going to buy sexual abuse as part of a story that's about the ineffability of god.
I'm not saying I don't buy the ineffability thing within the context of this story, don't get me wrong. If the jesus factor is in play then it's in play, and as long as things stay consistent I'm up for it. It's not used badly in this story as a plot device: it makes Levi's lifestyle and behaviour sort of categorically immoral, because it's being used in both a personal as well as a societal sense -- which is neat because what's more satisfying than a moral conclusion to an immoral dilemma? Particularly when it manages to be all things to all people (viz. the truly bizarre explanation Levi manages to cobble together for his dad) and even more particularly when it's twinned with the idea of salvation.
I might not even remotely want to associate with that kind of resolution, but I can certainly admire the structure and deftness behind it. It's pretty smart play, and it gives the book a strength and power that holds everything together; I didn't want
god to be the reason for anything in the story, but I could appreciate that Levi did, and that Levi's family did.
If there's one writer in the genre who will follow a storyline through and not let go until she's pinned it all down, it's Sexton. She's got the most amazing focus, and there are very few writers out there who'll stay as true to their narrative as she does. If she starts something you know she's going to finish it. She's also incredibly talented with characterisations, and character transitions, and that's very evident than in this book.
Levi is handled extremely well: all the way from his dilemma of faith to the adjustment of personality he needed to be with Jaime. What I liked about him (and Jaime) -- in fact, what I like about most of Sexton's characters -- is that all the disparate parts of the story: the emotions, the issues, the dialogue -- they all come from the characters. The characters drive the story and generate the story: they're not reactive -- outside plot doesn't make them reveal their personalities to us. It makes for this seamless, watertight narrative that always holds you as a reader (with exceptions -- let's not go too crazy with the paintbrush: the first couple of Coda books did zilch for me, but then my beloved Cole came along and I was Sexton's forever).
I liked Levi's family very much. They were, I'm guessing, very purposefully a big group of people so that the author could use them as separate components to present whatever arguments needed presenting. It was done well, for the most part, though the generalised atmosphere of familial loving stretched the boundaries of belief just a little, given all the vitriol that was part of their gatherings. But handwave, handwave, you take what you get, and Sexton was at least at pains to minimise their obnoxiousness with things like how they recognised homosexuality wasn't a choice and so on.
It's a book with a lot of integrity, and you have to admire anyone who'll wade into waters like these. At the heart of it, I trust the author implicitly with deeply emotional issues and wouldn't hesistate to follow her into wherever she chooses to go.
But you can't use theology in the same breath as sexual abuse, particularly not if it involves children. It's no how ye make porridge, ken.