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Reviewed by Rabia Tanveer for Readers' Favorite
The Goldberg Variations: The Redemption of the Damned by Jonathan Arnowitz Taylor is the story of a young man on the path to self-acceptance. Jamie Goldberg was gay. He was aware of his sexuality and out of the closet, but things were not good. His past wasn’t letting him live his present or look forward to the future. Jamie’s past was filled with horrific sexual abuse and that ruled his present. Depressed, stressed, and plagued with suicidal thoughts, Jamie was desperate to cling to anything or anyone that would give him a respite from the pain. Lost and searching for salvation, he found a group of people who helped him understand the true meaning of family. Suddenly Jamie had friends, shoulders to lean on, a hug when he wanted to cry, and people to share his love for music. But before he could be truly happy, he needed to confront his past, make his peace, and move forward to the future.
Jamie’s character was experiencing self-loathing from the moment the story began. The emotions were running high. I could feel his despair and the way he was desperately grasping for a break. Coming out of the closet was the easy part for Jamie even if his parents asked him never to show his face, even if he was “cured.” He got to study the subject he wanted to at college, and the freedom did wonders for his self-esteem. However, that was all short-lived as coming out was only part of the process, and now that he had freedom, he was often perceived as promiscuous. However, it all worked toward Jamie’s growth as a man who understood himself and understood what it meant to be happy. Music, friendships, relationships, and freedom played a very important role in the story. Freedom, in fact, had multiple facets, and the author explored each of them. The narrative was smooth, fast-paced, and revolved around Jamie’s growth. Jonathan Arnowitz Taylor captured the essence of the early 80s, gave a strong argument to LGBT visibility, and how being singled out could impact a person’s life. The Goldberg Variations was more than just about Jamie’s sexual awakening; it was the story of his coming-of-age in a sense.