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Book Review: Square Affair

Square Affair. Timmothy J. Holt. Christine F. Anderson Publishing & Media, January 14, 2015, Trade Paperback and Kindle, 244 pages.

Reviewed by Sue Roupp.

Square Affair is a gripping story of a group of five closeted gay men, some married, finding each other in the small Illinois town of Dewers, “the heart of Lincoln land . . .” It is 1969 and they have been meeting on weekends and sometimes in the basement level courthouse men’s room for their sexual encounters. Now they have been arrested and are on trial.

The book introduces us to two women, Clara May and Frieda, who narrate the story. Then we are introduced to each of those involved in this situation and those individuals speak in their own voices in successive chapters. Together, these characters show us the conservative, insular character of Dewers, including the town square where people mingle and gossip.

Chicago is introduced as one of the men goes to the city for a good time occasionally. With the unveiling of the men’s homosexuality, we go deeper into each individual’s life. We see how the wives of the married men are dealing with this news, and how some blame the wives for their husbands becoming gay. A Time magazine article on homosexuality even calls men “deviant.”

We become involved in how friends, family, teachers, and others view the gay men. Author Holt portrays Dewers as a community with religious intolerance toward sex in general. “God didn’t like women to have sex with anyone but their husbands, and then only to get pregnant.”

There is some wonderful writing here. For example, after learning of her husband's sexual orientation, one wife says, “I’m flooded with emptiness where there used to be warmth.” In other passages, the men speak frankly to one another, finally able to connect with other gay men who since their teenage years or earlier knew they were gay but kept it a secret.

This is a good novel about 1960s small town society—all of the small town prejudices are on display but we get to know each person as a human being. Being human in this time period, facing a way of being that is not familiar, comes with a very complicated view of someone being gay. Square Affair shows us how old and cold ways of viewing gay people are not just the stereotypical gay-hating robotic reactions.

Rather, the author has given us characters with depth grappling with new information and trying to deal with that information because they know the individuals involved. A sophisticated look at a time and place, attitudes, acknowledgement, and each man’s acceptance of who he is under the most difficult of circumstances.  


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