By Thom Brodkin
I’ll admit it. This one shocked me.
Prior to reading this review, I strongly encourage you to read the story and get the same feeling I did reading it the first time. Then you can come back and indulge with me.
The narrative voice and flow in this story, paired with a little authorial intrusion in the beginning, is very well written in Coming Out. There is confidence in this piece, a sense of satisfaction and intrigue that Brodkin has captured. Coming Out is a modern example of friendship in a hostile social justice climate.
Immediately we’re met with this question. The question isn’t about being capable of keeping a secret, but more so are you willing to, and do you even want to? The entirety of this story is based around secrets, and it isn’t about keeping them. But it’s more about who are you keeping that secret from? The main character, Rico, isn’t concerned about coming out to his parents, which is how it often is in LGBTQ+ books, stories, and movies. It isn’t even about coming out to people at school, the other big trope. Which is what makes this story so interesting, and had me eager to finish it. Who did Rico have left to come out to?
This story has but a single conversation of dialogue, which is something I enjoy. Brodkin moves the plot along through the narrative, revealing more and more with each line. Rico has this casual feel to him, one that lets you know that he has had problems and fights and issues, but he’s too proud to tell you about each one of them. Besides, Rico’s problems aren’t the main point of the story. This is something that is beautiful about Coming Out, it keeps you engaged in the main problem while only sprinkling bits of the secondary problems. It gives us just enough that it makes Rico relatable without making him seem sorry for himself.
The main theme in Coming Out has to be friendship. And that it isn’t the quantity of friends that matter, but the quality. For Rico, Terry Whitaker was the definition of friendship and acceptance. The two were inseparable as children, and eventually as adults in college. Which, inevitably, created a bag of all kinds of mixed emotions. But it reveals another beautiful idea, that love at first sight is a myth, it’s something that is blossomed through years of nurturing and bonding.
I should have seen it coming. I truly should have. But I didn’t. Brodkin hid it from me in plain sight. Not a single mention of what gender Terry is, and I didn’t even question it. I was so hooked into Rico’s confidence that I wasn’t even worried about Terry! And then, all of a sudden, like a blind turn, Terry says it, “You know I’m a girl, right?” And what’s so impressive about this line, is it acts as the climax. We know Rico is going to be telling Terry something, and when the time finally comes, what Rico has to say isn’t even important. The climax is that bit of information that flips your perspective upside down.
I really do like Coming Out. I would give it a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars. I think the only thing holding me back from giving this story a 5-star review is it lacks motifs and metaphors and description. It’s a little too laid out and lacks allusion, which is something that’s very important for short stories. There are a lot of good aspects to it, though! Rico is likeable and relatable, it’s well written, the title is good and adds to the suspense in the story, and that last-second plot twist was great. Definitely worth the read!
Thank you for reading! Have you read this story yet? What did you think of it? Join in on this discussion in the comments below!
Interested in reading this story? Or more of Brodkin’s work? Read it here.