“My religion is my belief system. Yours is about who you … choose to Love.”
The author of OPENLY STRAIGHT returns with an epic road trip involving family history, gay history, the girlfriend our hero can’t have, the grandfather he never knew, and the Porcupine of Truth.
Carson Smith is resigned to spending his summer in Billings, Montana, helping his mom take care of his father, a dying alcoholic he doesn’t really know. Then he meets Aisha Stinson, a beautiful girl who has run away from her difficult family, and Pastor John Logan, who’s long held a secret regarding Carson’s grandfather, who disappeared without warning or explanation thirty years before. Together, Carson and Aisha embark on an epic road trip to find the answers that might save Carson’s dad, restore his fragmented family, and discover the “Porcupine of Truth” in all of their lives.
The Porcupine of Truth is a fully packed read for a three hundred plus pages as it tackles different themes like religion, race, identity, alcoholism, broken family, death and more. The author Bill Konigsberg bring two flawed characters, Carson and Aisha as he explores his themes with wit and humor.
As Carson and Aisha take their journey across different state, readers will ride a journey of exploration and realization.
Carson Smith our main protagonist and narrator is temporary staying in Billings with his parents to help take care of his sick father. During his first day of visit to Billings she met Aisha whom he instantly connect to but unfortunately for him, Aisha is not into boys. But that doesn’t hinder the friendship between Carson and Aisha. These two travel to different states to solve the mystery of Carson’s grandfather disappearance.
My like for Carson can be compared to his journey with Aisha to find his grandfather. The more the two travel and know things about Carson’s grandfather and people they met the more I like Carson better. Because, lets face it, Carson isn’t an easy to like character. His sense of humor is not always a hit but I love that he can make fun of himself. Which in a way why this novel really works for me. Because like Carson, The Porcupine of Truth is not always a smooth read but it dared to touch sensitive topics and never pretend to be more than what it is.
With all the topics inside this novel it so easy for Bill Konigsberg to pick a wrong turn and make a mess of everything. I’ve seen it happen to other books, to the point that I lost interest reading because the author is throwing a lot of things expecting readers to enjoy or accept things as is. That didn’t happen in here. The Porcupine of Truth though deals with a lot of topics still managed to handle things lightly, as well as leave an impact or at least create a point.
Just like how the book presented religion in the story. The constant presence of religion in Carson’s journey may feel contrived or preachy to readers but Bill Konigsberg make his point nevertheless. Through Carson’s hatred for religion and Aisha situation he shows how non-believer see and understand Christianity or “organized religion” (as the book call it) and eventually become more open to it. As Carson and Aisha travel and meet people along the way, they see things in different way. They become more aware of things they used to disregard because of their experiences in life or because of their environment. Eventually things are not just black-and-white anymore for them, though still complicated they are at least become more open and more forgiving.
Bill Konigsberg also show the hypocrisy of people who preach Christianity. How some people use religion as an excuse for things they do or how some people preach things but never actually apply it in their lives. It’s one of the common issue in Christianity or religion in general but Bill explore it in a humorous and realistic way. Just like in Aisha’s case, a lesbian thrown by her dad because unfortunately her sexuality doesn’t fit the Christian standard. Though technically that standard is old-school, it still shows how some people choose to follow the majority than stand for things that really matters.
“My dad was always good to me, great to me. And then this thing. He couldn’t hack it. He saw it as his failure, and he’s not so good with failure. The religion thing, that made it easy for him not to deal with it. The church told him I needed fixing, so instead of working on accepting me as I’ve always been, he gives me an ultimatum. Be someone else, or be gone.”
Overall, The Porcupine of Truth is a quick read that is not only entertaining but also thought-provoking. Carson’s journey to find the truth about his grandfather’s disappearance is also a journey of self-discovery, acceptance, and realization.
*This review is based on a copy I received courtesy of the publisher, Scholastic Press Philippines in exchange for an honest opinion.