Rolling with the Punches
(2010) ISBN 9781423754471
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer, PhD, for Reader Views
Living in a small town in Kentucky, Joey Douglas always knew he was different, but he just couldn’t explain it. When he tried to talk about his confusion, his dad always said “Roll with the punches.” Joey didn’t even know what that meant but he would soon find out. Joey always had a fascination with female movie starts and singers. He would pantomime them behind closed doors in his room. He felt he could really relate to these entertainers.
Readers will follow Joey as he learns to navigate the system and not tell anyone how he really feels. He’s looking for love in all the wrong places. After traveling to Europe to study and having the time of his life, he is now moving to New York. What a strange and exciting place. Here was a place where one could be openly gay, yet Joey still had difficulty coming out. He was lost. His family didn’t know what to do with him or how to help him, so they sent him to a priest- oh yes, the priest helped him okay- they were sexual together and then the priest acted like nothing happened which only confused Joey more. Alcohol was his redeemer and at least for a few minutes or hours it helped him forget. Yet those he knew and thought were his friends continued to use and abuse him
The author has great insight into what it is to be different, the disgust of others; the affection and the times you can’t even figure out where you fit into the world. His vivid descriptions of what goes on in Joey’s head are incredible. Readers will get the opportunity to see what it’s like to be gay in our character’s mind and how he uses comedy to avoid others paying attention to him. What I read between the lines is that regardless of your gender identity, everyone wants to be loved and love. Does it really make a difference who we love?
Joey’s dad, whom never understood him, was dying of cancer- Joey didn’t know what to say, but his dad finally said he “knew” and was proud of him. After his dad’s death Joey had to be there for his mom and his decision was to take her to movies and Broadway shows, an outlet for both.
From my psychological point of view, this was both humorous, yet very important. Do we ever really look at how someone feels or what their concerns are? We are so caught up in “us,” we don’t give others a second thought. I have discussed this book in my Psychology classes (college) since many of my students are GLB. All want to read it. I think all the general public needs to read “Rolling with the Punches” – walk in their shoes for just a few days and then see if you still feel the same.