Five years ago, I read and loved Wayne Hoffman’s first novel, Hard. So, I was naturally excited to learn that he had a new novel out, Sweet Like Sugar. It’s a really interesting novel, one that made me think. I really enjoyed it.

Sweet Like Sugar centers on Benji Steiner, a gay advertising executive who has started his own small company in the same shopping center as a rabbi’s Jewish bookstore. Benji is Jewish but has lost touch with his faith. He still practices a handful of Jewish observances, but in general he doesn’t really connect to his Jewishness any longer.

When his former Hebrew school teacher, who now works in the rabbi’s bookstore, brings the aged and ill rabbi, Jacob Zuckerman, to rest in Benji’s office, it sets of a series of events that transforms both men’s lives.

Like many gay people who were raised in religious households, Benji’s coming out coincided with his rejection of his religious heritage. As conservative religious figures teach against same-sex desire, those of us who experience those desires as a real and immutable part of our lived experience question the value of religion more broadly as we reject the specific teachings we find homophobic.

My own experience was very much like this. My parents are very religious, and I was raised to share their conservative views. Once I began to accept my sexual desires rather than fear them, it called into question everything they had tried to teach me–if they’re wrong about homosexuality, are they wrong about everything else too? I think it’s a natural progression from one issue to the next (to the next and so on) that ultimately led me to reject the whole kit and caboodle.

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