Title: The Heart’s Invisible Furies
Author: John Boyne
Published: August 2017
Summary: This is Cyril Avery’s story, one which begins as his young, unwed, biological mother is cast out of her small, country, Irish town. This young girl decides to give Cyril up for adoption in the hopes that a loving family will take him in as their own. Cyril is adopted by the Averys, a fact they make sure he never forgets. Checking in with Cyril every 7 years of his life this story follows him from the early days of his young life when he is discovering that he might not be like other boys, to the awakening of his sexual identity, to finding love, experiencing profound lost, and seeking out peace in a world that prefers that homosexuality does not exist. This is a story about the dark side of humanity and not letting that prevent you from achieving happiness.
Thoughts: It took me more than two months to make it through this epic novel. I had to balance the difficult and painful journey of Cyril Avery with lighter, summer reads to help me manage seeing life through his eyes. This book taught me so much and expanded my view of the world. I think that’s a pretty amazing result of just 600 pages in a book. While I found the entirety of this story to be important and insightful, my eyes were especially opened during Cyril’s young life when he was 7-21. During these chapters, he was beginning to understand that he might have slightly different appetites than other boys his age (7). He went to an all boys boarding school when he finally understood that he liked other boys, living in constant angst and repression during his time at the Catholic institution trying to find friendship and hide away his desires (14). When he moved off to the city to live on his own for the first time, fully understanding his sexuality, he began exploring and experimenting in the framework in which was available to him at that time, secret, anonymous, and unsafe encounters (21). His story goes so many other places after this stretch of 14 years, but this time in particular gave me a raw perspective on something I know nothing about. I will also warn that these chapters can be quite graphic. Although I think the time and location in which this took place made this stretch of time more difficult for Cyril, I imagine that there was a lot of universality about the formative years of discovering ones sexual identity, especially if it is not that of the majority. This was also probably the most difficult part of the book for me to read.
Cyril makes some choices that seem bad, but they are also choices you understand given the circumstances. There are times when Cyril feels so hopeless, as did I, but he managed to find his footing and carry on. All those hard times make the good times even more triumphant. If you decide to read this book, keep in mind that there are good, happy times ahead of you. The way this story is told allows you to grow up with Cyril and see how as he grew older he gained perspective on life and came to look back on his former choices with understanding, but also realizing that he can’t change the past. I will leave you with this excerpt from the book that really summarizes this book as well as resonated with me personally, putting all the hate and barriers into perspective:
“All these people,” she said sorrowfully. “And all of that trouble. And look, they’re all dead now. So what did it all matter in the end?”