Updated: Jul 9, 2021
I was going to say I’ve been flying through the books this month but that would be a lie, it’s just that I’ve read three back-to-back for the first time in a long while!
The latest was ‘Yes, Daddy’ by Jonathan Parks-Ramage, which came on to my radar thanks to the wonderful Chip (@booksoverbros). This is by far one of my favourite reads of 2021 so far, as evidenced by the fact I read it in almost one sitting and stayed up till after 2am because I had to finish it and see how it ended!
As always, let’s start with the synopsis before I dive into the review:
A propulsive, scorching modern gothic, Yes, Daddy follows an ambitious young man who is lured by an older, successful playwright into a dizzying world of wealth and an idyllic Hamptons home where things take a nightmarish turn. Jonah Keller moved to New York City with dreams of becoming a successful playwright, but, for the time being, lives in a rundown sublet in Bushwick, working extra hours at a restaurant only to barely make rent. When he stumbles upon a photo of Richard Shriver—the glamorous Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright and quite possibly the stepping stone to the fame he craves—Jonah orchestrates their meeting. The two begin a hungry, passionate affair. When summer arrives, Richard invites his young lover for a spell at his sprawling estate in the Hamptons. A tall iron fence surrounds the idyllic compound where Richard and a few of his close artist friends entertain, have lavish dinners, and—Jonah can’t help but notice—employ a waitstaff of young, attractive gay men, many of whom sport ugly bruises. Soon, Jonah is cast out of Richard’s good graces and a sinister underlay begins to emerge. As a series of transgressions lead inexorably to a violent climax, Jonah hurtles toward a decisive revenge that will shape the rest of his life. Riveting, unpredictable, and compulsively readable, Yes, Daddy is an exploration of class, power dynamics, and the nuances of victimhood and complicity. It burns with weight and clarity—and offers hope that stories may hold the key to our healing.
This was already on my reading list and then I saw Lindsay’s (@theopinionatedreader) review, which started with ‘I truly do not know how I can construct a review to do this book any justice.’ At which point I stopped reading because I didn’t want any spoilers and that once sentence was enough for me to grab the iPad and start reading.
I feel that the title and cover of this book are highly deceptive. If I hadn’t read the synopsis or seen to bookstagrammers I love raving about this book, I may have assumed it fell into the erotica category (I am not against that at all!). However, Park-Ramage deals with some very difficult and important topics throughout the course of this novel.
Yes, Daddy deals with the topics of power, coercion, physical and mental abuse, rape, drug abuse, suicide, conversion therapy, family dynamics and estrangement, the impacts of childhood stardom and victim blaming. It felt like a #MeToo novel for the gay community and a powerful story at that.
I was hooked from the prologue, where the main character, Jonah, keeps referring to another character by only calling them ‘You’. Without giving anything away, based on where the prologue is set and what is taking place, I immediately wanted to know who ‘You’ was and spent the remainder of my reading trying to decipher which of the other characters it could be.
This book is not an easy read, but I do feel that it is important for many reasons.
Personally, I feel that we hear a lot about the abuses and harassment women face, either within the entertainment industries via the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements or in everyday society, but rarely do we discuss the abuse, rape and domestic violence men can face, regardless of their sexuality. It is as if this topic is taboo, that saying you have been abused as a man you are no longer able to share in the ‘mainstream’ male qualities of strength, masculinity, power and more. This is not the case and anyone that has been abused, victimised or harassed deserves to be heard, supported and acknowledged regardless of their sex, gender, sexuality, race or religion. Here, I felt that Parks-Ramage dealt with such an important topic in a sensitive manner.
I also appreciated how he discussed the topic of conversion therapy within the church and other church and family related themes that arose during the book. At times I wanted to climb into the pages and hug and help Jonah.
What really struck me was the importance of the media, which is timely considering the discussions we are currently having regarding Britney Spears and her conservatorship. In the instance of Yes, Daddy, it was hard to watch as certain characters spiralled and were tabloid fodder, when the reader knew what they had been through and the cause of their pain. It was also so infuriating, but very real, to watch as the media were blaming victims for their roles in the events that occurred, without considering what they themselves had been through and how this could have impact and affected their own actions. Instead of empathy, they only cared for the headlines and clicks, and this is all too real in the world we live in! As I say, it reminds me of the discussions we are having around Britney Spears, where the media profited off of her mental health and personal issues back in 2007 (and since), writing stories and headlines that were in no way helpful to her or anyone else that may have been suffering in a similar way, yet now they are the first to come out and throw their support behind her without acknowledging or apologising for the role they did and have continued to play.
Rarely do I feel fully satisfied at the end of a book, but I did here. It didn’t end the way that I was expecting but when I did reach that last line, I wasn’t left disappointed or wanting more. Basically, Parks-Ramage nailed it and I will definitely be reading whatever he comes out with next!
This book is out now and if you haven’t guessed already, I highly recommend you pick it up! I was so obsessed with this book that I emailed Lighthouse Bookshop, ' a queer-owned and woman led independent community bookshop' told them all about the book and that I couldn't find it in any indie bookstores online in the UK. They them replied telling me that I'd sold it to them and they now had it on order! So I am here to say, if you want to support a small, independent, LGBTQ+ bookstore run by women and read Yes,Daddy, then you can pick up a copy from Lighthouse Bookstore here.
Thank you to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for a free ARC copy of this book.