by Jorge Bosch
Genre: Literary Fiction
Print Length: 314 pages
Reviewed by Audrey Davis | Content warnings: childhood sexual abuse
A moving story that explores family ties and belonging
When 14-year old John Forrester becomes the victim of sexual abuse from a relative, his mother decides their wealthy family’s outward reputation takes precedent over everything, opting to conceal any details of the incident and insisting that John ignore what he thinks he remembers and to “move past” his strange feelings. The trajectory of John’s life changes inevitably, drastically— but as he grows older and as scars that couldn’t fully heal re-open, John seeks to learn the full truth about his past and resolve what he can, however he can.
John’s story of self-discovery leaves readers emotional throughout Jorge Bosch’s debut novel Dear Gosei. The author skillfully delivers difficult and sensitive subject matter through graceful prose and a down-to-Earth narrative, and readers are presented a healthy mix of backstory and current events, complemented wonderfully by robust characterization and descriptions. Religion is extremely important to the Forrester family, as it is to many families, and it plays a part in their rejection and acceptance of John as well as John’s initial rejection and further acceptance of himself.
“’Respecting myself is necessary for my self-esteem, and I can never respect myself if I am dependent on others’ opinions, my parents’ approval, or what others think of me. All these years, I lost sight of who I am and what makes me happy, and it’s time for me to find a solution.’”
The narrative style of this story suggests the reader is also a character in it. Unforeseen consequences of the family’s actions make themselves apparent to the reader as they become apparent to John, but the reader can tell the gravity of the situation well before John can. Despite a relationship that has caused him much grief, John is willing and able to work with the family to continue honoring their Japanese heritage. Being a fifth-generation immigrant, or Gosei, helps John come to terms with who he is as a person and helps pave the way for repairing things with his family.
“One thing he did know for sure was, time passes inexorably day after day. The time we spend on earth goes by more quickly than we realize. Certain things, people, and experiences become routine to us, and we come to take them for granted when, in reality, we should treat them as exceptional, since they can permanently disappear at the most unexpected moment.”
I would recommend this book to someone looking for a touching and complex, yet grounded story. Readers will admire Josh’s strength and intense desire to have his questions answered even if it’s not what he wants to hear, to make his own decisions not curated by family even if they have his “best interests” at heart, and to ultimately become his own person without hiding pieces of himself in shame.
“I’m the same as always, but now I’m figuring out what’s best for me.”
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