Beliefs are formative for not only our thoughts, but the actions we carry out daily, as well. In the case of Isaac Morris, in Lead Me Not by Ann Gallagher, he is entrenched in the mindset of homophobic rhetoric, alongside the majority of his fundamental Christian church and family. One could wonder, what would it take for him to be educated on the world outside of the groupthink he has been forced to drown in?
For a while now, I’ve been in search of a book that not only tackles the subject matter that this one does, but which also sets up a realistic depiction of both sides in this contemporary argument. Though I disliked reading the homophobic bits, and detested certain characters throughout the novel, what sold it for me was Isaac and his transformation, as well as the in depth look at not only the mindset of people like him, but also the scripture in the Bible as seen through each other’s eyes.
With that being said, was Isaac a good or likable character for the majority of the book? I suppose that depends upon each reader. As for me, as a character, I loved him. Certain choices he made though, were reason enough for a person to dislike him, if he were a real person. His background does play a large part though on how he reacts or interacts with certain revelations, because hatred buried that deep in someone is not changed overnight. However, eventually, the pay out that comes later is worth his less than likable tendencies, thoughts, and actions.
As for the other characters, I enjoyed each one, honestly. The love interest, Colton Roberts, a stark contrast to everything that Isaac believed previously, was also well written, and a great choice to be set opposite of him. I enjoyed reading his chapters as much, if not more, than Isaac’s, to be honest. As for the antagonists, though they made me want to scream or toss my Kindle, were realistic. The siblings outside of the ones who were cast in with the rest of the antagonists were decent, as was the older pastor who had taken care of Colton from a young age. He ground the story in ways that made me grateful that he was included.
The setting, which is Seattle, Washington, as well as the different places that are visited throughout the course of the novel, compound the message that the narrative is seeking to show overall – we all have our own struggles, but it costs nothing to hear each other out and be kind to our fellow humans. I enjoyed watching Isaac interact with his choice of occupation – a gay bar, of all things. Likewise, how his opinion of Colton’s church changed over time after various visits, was interesting as well.
My one bone to pick with this book, honestly, is the way that the older sister who has been distanced from the family, reacts to the news of the whole project, which is the driving force of the plot for much of the book. Being that she is removed from it emotionally, outside of worrying about Isaac, I felt she should have also asked how it was fair to treat someone the way that her brother and sister were, for a manipulative venture. Addressing that better on page would have been most welcomed, honestly, and is ultimately what led me to knock down a star from my final rating.
Overall, I will recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Christian and LGBTQIA+ romance melded together. The subject matter is tough, but it is still a good story, and one that does deliver a powerful look at what can happen when we all put aside our pride, or toxic beliefs, and just listen.
I rated this book a 4/5 stars on Goodreads.