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  • Sarah
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on 20 November 2000
Despite having just published his first book, JT LeRoy has become one of those new authors who make headlines far beyond the literary ghettoes. The rave reviews of Sarah aren't just limited to his side of the Atlantic, either. Here in England, even the staunchly conservative Telegraph has lauded his first novel as a 'tour de force'. Sarah is a droll stunner of a novel. Set in the Virginian hinterland of wild woods and wild sexual diversity, the novel dreams its way through the life of the eponymous hero Sarah - a male/female prostitute, serving the carnal desires of lonely truck drivers.
The book never strays into the sentimental formula of the usual 'other-than-heterosexual' novel. LeRoy writes without the usual agenda associated with trans-gender/trans-sexual literature. He concentrates on narrative rather than clichéd politics, and weaves an oblique little fantasy that envelopes from the first sentence to the last. His is a world where an ultra modern, ultra savvy Dorothy enters a perverse land of Oz, surviving on guile and - despite the squalor and depravity he/she is forced to endure - a peculiar and endearing sort of innocence.
His ear is acute to the rhythms of the region he describes. Each character breathes a kind of fire from the page. The lonely and the desperate resort to all manner of subterfuge to disguise their predicaments, but their real natures come across in the delicate way LeRoy describes them.
What could be an unremittingly bleak little novel is peppered with great comic moments and a pathos that never strays into the mawkish. LeRoy is a fearsome writer whose reputation will continue to grow far beyond this debut.
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on 21 November 2000
I read "Sarah" several months ago, and the story still haunts me. The tale is wonderful and awful at the same time, telling about a sweet-natured boy who simply accepts a tough way of life. His mother, who had him when she was only 14 herself, often dressed him in girl's clothing and took him along with her when she serviced truck drivers. The most bittersweet part is how much he needs the love and affection that his mother was unable to give him. I also love the authenticity of the book, set in West Virginia. The language thrilled me. And it is so descriptive, I could visualize the scenes. This writer is extraordinary. I wish there were a sequel. I want to read more by author J.T. LeRoy. When a second book does come out, you'll see me lined up at the bookstore along with a lot of other fans. .
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on 17 November 2010
Personally I came to this book having missed (being in the UK) all the hype and subsequent backlash. So I treated the book as a work of fiction. I thought it was very very good. To me it was in the traditional of many southern writers (I know Albert is not genuinely southern but who cares) with a dark gothic but also comedic surrealness that made it more than a story of a child prostitute. The use of religious imagary, weird strange characters, backwood setting, good vs evil only add to this feel. Similar themes to what you would find in books by writers I love like Harry Crews, Larry Brown or William Gay.
The book, although dealing with a very disturbing subject, avoids being too graphic early on and the humour helps to dilute the nastiness of the situation Cherry/Sarah/Sam is in. The story is fairly simplistic - a naive child frustrated by being held back by those trying to look out for her (relatively speaking) inadvertantly wanders into a much more dangerous situation. There then follows a battle of sorts between good (again relatively speaking) and evil. The story then takes on elements of religeous fanaticism and charlatanisem before it becomes nastier in feel as Charry/Sarah/Sam's situation really worsens.
I feel the author has shot herself in the foot by not just admitting it was a work of fiction. Had she admitted it was fiction it is possible that this book would have become a cult classic over time. I think the problem with her claims that JT Leroy was real and the subsequent charade that ensued left people feeling cheated and foolish and no one likes to feel like that (look at the tags in on the US Amazon site - scam, faker, lame, dishonest). I also think the publicity brought many people to this book who would not have normally read a book like this with such a subject matter. Many people cannot read books about uncomfortable subject matters unless they feel it is true and the victim has managed to survive and rebuild their life. As soon as it was discovered JT was not real a lot of sympathy for the character disappeared. It was seen as exploitative and the matter of fact way acts most of us would consider unthinkable are described or mentioned only worsens this. However, I consider this a fairly realistic portrayal of how an abused child may think (the story itself is not that realistic but neither do I think it is meant to be). Many child victims of abuse become conditioned to it so it is not unusual to them and they would not think to complain about their lot in life as it is all they and the people around them know. Although not as good a book and certainly a more graphic book The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things describes the sort of lifestyle and experiences that shape an abused child's development and thinking and it is sort of a prequel to this book.

This is not a book for everyone and no matter what would probably have been controversial (how many other books deal with child prostitution without them being over the top "real life" exposes with a life affirming ending where the victim finds god and all is well such as A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown). Be aware everybody in this book who is not a child but including some children are either abusing, exploiting or assisting in the exploitation of children. That said while the book does not openly condemn what is going on (the "good" guy is a pimp of children) it does not attempt to glorify child exploitation. It is merely written from the point of view of an adult remembering a part of their life as a child. Dark, funny, bizarre, unsettling and very sad but a very good book all the same.
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on 9 November 2006
I came to this book with high expectations, based largely on the many glowing review it's had over the last couple of years. But right from the beginning I was disappointed. The much-vaunted 'original' prose style is really not that original, but really IS quite irritating. The 'voice' of the main character is a great big muddle, simultaneously knowing and naive, ignorant and oddly well-informed. The plot is predictable and most of the characters pretty one-dimensional. Really, I can't see what the fuss was about. This was a book I couldn't wait to finish - so I could start reading something else!
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on 26 June 2002
I could not put this book down. Though at times I was overcome by great sadness, it was a truly enchanting book. I would thoroughly recommend this book to fellow Douglas Coupland fans.
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on 5 September 2000
SARAH is a hot new book in my area. I've heard buzz in the market, in a coffee shop, and even while waiting for a bus. I bought a copy and took it along on a business flight. Well, I've never had a plane ride fly by so fast! It's one heck of a good story -- but there's so much more and on so many levels, it almost begs for deeper analysis! The novel is a tale of suffering and redemption, with all the symbolism and icons. There's a struggle between good and evil (in this case, rival pimps) and a Christ-like hero of indeterminate sexuality who is the innocent lamb. It's a picaresque adventure novel of a quest for glory. It's also funny and full of clear and well-written, fully-developed characterizations. I urge your readers to Buy a copy and see what all the praise is about.
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on 18 April 2013
read the face interview with this autur many moons ago and so bought and read Sarah

quite quite dark in parts but also cripping and full of quirky-adventure

interesting and individual
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on 22 July 2000
Once I started, I could not put down my copy of a new book called "Sarah," written by someone even younger than I am. Certainly, the book is captivating and full of descriptions that make the West Virginia locale real and alive. The young author has a good ear for speech; he captures the tone, expressions, and rhythms of the people who live there. The story is partly autobiographical - but wholly wonderful. I cared so much for the androgynous boy who calls himself Sarah, possibly because he's so open and uncomplaining, trying so hard to please and just be loved. He never has a moment's self-pity, or thinks of himself as abused. Thus, he remains pure innocence, and that is the tender heart of this story. In drama, they say it is not for the character to weep, but for the character to make the audience weep. With his courage and unsoiled ability to love, that's just what Sarah did to me.
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on 14 October 2008
The book is about a yong (& under-aged) male prostitute. He has led a tough life with his junkie mother, but begins to make money from selling his body. After being picked up by a pimp (who believes he is a girl) he is thought to be a holy figure of some kind to the bizarre West Virginians who pay to see him. Some events happen that lead the poor guy into a very adverse situation resulting in a painful life of prostituting & drugs.
I absolutely loved this book. Its quirky & original, a story about a boy, deprived of love from his incompetent mother thrust into a brutal adult world. We learn from this that all he really wants is some love & affection, he of course goes to the wrong places to get it.
I felt really sorry for him!
It is a highly enjoyable novel, but very sad. Not for the faint hearted though!
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on 3 September 2015
Visceral and sometimes brutal, but never lacking in compassion and warmth. An experience unlike any other and characters that seem still to exist.
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