Welcome to the first review in my banned book series. Today I’m looking at Going Home by Max Vos. I decided to review this book mainly because it was banned from Amazon and other big online retailers. I was immediately intrigued because what could be bad enough to get something booted from Amazon? Well, firstly, the book deals with incest. A father and son have consensual sex in the book. I thought to myself, okay, this must be REALLY BAD because things like V.C. Andrew’s Flowers in the Attic (and beyond) are still merrily selling on Amazon, and this book was given the boot. (If you’ve never read The Flowers in the Attic series to say it is disturbing is putting it mildly. There are also easily hundreds of other books dealing with incest relationships on Amazon.)
I was pleasantly surprised by the book, actually, and after reading it was even more baffled as to why it was kicked off Amazon. There’s one part in the entire work that reads as dub-con (dubious consent) to me, but not exactly in the way you might expect for a story with a theme like this. It’s actually a three way book at it’s heart, even though it deals with the relationship between a father and son as well.
Before I get any further into this, let’s take a look at the blurb.
Journalist Carter Roberts was required to interview Carl Foltz and Matt Evans for an article on their lives. It was not an assignment he relished: he just wanted to get there, get it done and get out. Thinking about the subject matter made his stomach churn. The interview reveals as much about himself as about the two men, and for the first time, Carter learns what a real home feels like. He never would have expected that meeting the two men would change his way of thinking – and his life – forever.
I like that the blurb is short and sweet, but it doesn’t really mention the big taboo. This is a relatively short work I would maybe call a Novella rather than a novel at 128 pages, and aside from the warning of including incest and a three way, there’s nothing dire in the book.
Now because it has been banned from Amazon, the only place, as far as I know, to purchase this book is directly from Max’s website. Since this was a banned book, I decided to get into touch with Mr. Vos and ask him, primarily, why he decided to write this type of story, and it sort of changed the way I saw the work in general. The big question, of course, was why write an incest book at all? The answer? The idea came out of an enjoyable personal experience. He spent some time with a couple that was a father and son. One summer in years past he was, essentially, Carter. Now, when I asked him how much of this book was fictionalized, he laughed and said that the location and type of farm was changed, though the more I talked to him it seemed like a great deal of the actual character story may have been something that he created rather than remembered. After a brief moment thinking he said, “…well, there was no tornado.” I think writing this book was a personal journey for him, one that allowed him to pay homage and respect to a memory of great times past.
In this review I’m going to do away with my traditional Good, Meh, Bad categorization, as it doesn’t seem to make much sense here to do it that way. There’s still a bit of stream of consciousness, as in I’m going to talk about things as they occur to me, so I hope I don’t lose anyone.
I have to admit I like to read a taboo story now and again, so if reading something that isn’t quite kosher titillates you (I normally stick to stepbrother stories when this type of mood strikes me), then this would be a book to read. There’s something about reading a taboo story, a feeling of “it’s so wrong, yet so right” that dogs me through an entire read leaving me feel slightly guilty yet strangely satisfied by the end. I might have stopped reading this book if at any point I’d actually felt like some sort of abuse was going on to the characters. Now, when I first read the story I lumped the book in with fantasy, and there are a lot of strange reads out there and I can suspend my belief long enough to read them. Most people who indulge in stories like this like to think about things that they would never do in real life, so I definitely don’t see reading a story about incest (especially one that isn’t dark the way this one isn’t) as any sort of indictment on a person’s morality. Fantasy is actually a healthy part of sexuality. After talking with Max Vos I realized that what the book was based on, at least, wasn’t fantasy, and I was left not sure how I felt about the book again. I do believe in love, but as good old Jerry Springer once said (I’m shortening here), family is supposed to be about safety, and even with proper ages and consent, I don’t honestly feel it is best to violate that for the sake of having sex, so that tosses me back to lumping this in as a “fantasy” read. I believe the book handled the topic of incest in this one particular instance well. But then I thought that if we had swapped out Matt for a woman I wouldn’t have liked the story at all. That would have seemed icky to me in a particular way this didn’t for some reason. Ingrained sexism, perhaps? Would I have seen a woman as inherently getting taken more advantage of than a man? That’s a disturbing idea to me, but that might be it. In the end though, I took the read at face value, which was a young man who wanted to sleep with an older man, who just happened to be his father.
The book deals with this topic extensively, and tries to explain how the relationship came about. I’m not the hugest fan of the interview format used to get us there, but it was fun because Carter’s character is a reporter of sorts, writes for a magazine. Sometimes the use of interviews in a work can seem chintzy or particularly dry, but it wasn’t bad here.
I guess the best thing about this book wasn’t necessarily the book itself, but the fact that it made me think about society, how I interact in it, what I think about incest and whether or not it would ever be acceptable. I think, for my money, that the reason I see the stepbrother trope as less objectionable than father/son is because there’s no age gap usually in those circumstances, not to mention the characters are usually not actual blood relations, so there’s less likelihood that someone is being coerced into those sorts of relationships. I think that’s why a lot of people will read twincest as well without batting an eye. Yeah, it’s a little iffy, but usually they both want it. I think it’s hard for people to not see coercion in a story like this, even though this one is written without it, for the most part.
There is one instance of non-con in this book, in my opinion, and it occurs when Carl, the father, is telling the story about how he and his son first got together to Carter, the reporter. Matt goes down on Carl and won’t stop. Matt creates the situation in which he doesn’t allow his father to say no, and to me that’s every bit as bad as it could have been the other way around. If anyone says no, it’s not consensual. Carl had already told him they wouldn’t be getting together and Matt pursued it anyway. That made my gut unhappy when I read it, in a way that the entire concept of the story didn’t, even though the couple then goes on to have a fulfilling, loving relationship.
Technically speaking, this book lacked a little bit of sanding out on some rough edges. We got a few of my pet peeves from the author, one being giving exact character heights. I don’t really need to know that someone is 6 foot 4 for a sense of height difference to be created. That isn’t that bad though, all things considered. At another point “pheromones” fill the truck and Carter gets hard. For a second I was deeply confused as to how that was possible since this wasn’t a shifter book. The average human male doesn’t sense pheromones. These are just tiny things that threw me out of the story. Overall, there weren’t that many of them.
I can definitely tell this book is written by a man because the sex is swift, we’re unapologetically given perma-nude characters throughout most of the book, and there are some very epic scenes, including a double entry scene where bacon grease is used as lube. Don’t forget, even though I mentioned it already, this is a three way book and we get some interesting ménage scenes. I laughed and hooted my way through that scene, which was pretty hot just because I could literally imagine the bacon grease smell. The first question I asked Mr. Vos when I was talking to him was why bacon grease? Why? I would have never in a million years thought to use bacon grease, even though I suppose you could. I was left shaking my head and grinning when the answer to this one was also, experience. The most unbelievable part of that particular scene happened to be that it was on a hammock. I don’t know if you’ve ever had sex on a hammock, but it isn’t an easy thing to accomplish. Hell, I can barely sit on them without flipping them.
In amongst all this sex Matt and Carl fall in love with Carter and ask him to stay. It’s an appearance of “insta-love!” and it doesn’t exactly seem organic with the way the story is rolling. I’m not saying that people can’t meet and fall instantly in love because they can, I’ve seen it happen, but the book doesn’t convince me of it. I’d say that’s actually the biggest problem I had with the entire book, but since I was already suspending disbelief as I was reading I just kept on trucking with it.
After this wonderfully sexy, raunchy read we get an epilogue that is downright depressing. It follows what we know must happen in this type of case, Carl, the father, dies leaving Matt and Carter to scrape up the pieces. It’s thirty years down the road from the story of how they all get together as a triad, and totally unnecessary to me. I asked Max why he decided to write it in and he said he thought they’d want it that way, and it was just part of the story he was telling. The man Carl is modeled off of really did die, so there’s that. So, once again, at its heart this story was partially a memorial, either to a memory or a person, and that’s why I think it was critical that Vos wanted it to be seen as emerging from a place of love and wanted other to read it with an open mind. The emotional toll of having a book like this banned undoubtedly played hell on the author. As a writer myself I know I get intensely invested in characters I create, so I can only imagine that would be amplified when dealing with treasured memories. That, of course, says nothing of the financial toll having a banned book took. There’s really no good way to recover from having a book yanked from the largest retailers. When I questioned Mr. Vos about what reason was given by the retailing giant Amazon, he said he never got a clear one even though he repealed the decision several time. Of course, one can speculate that it was because the book contained a same sex incestuous relationship that was portrayed as a good thing.
In conclusion, all in all, this was a fairly tame incest story. There was nothing in it that really sent me running for the hills. I’ve read much more twisted things that are still available on Amazon. Not to mention that if you ever read any fandom fiction, there’s some deeply dark and twisted stuff that can be found floating around. (Harry Potter fandom, I’m looking at you. I’ve been shocked and squicked more than once by a fiction I found lurking on the AO3 archives.) I would like to reiterate that I think the main reason Going Home was banned is that it showed incest in a positive light. I think if a person would be interested in reading an incest story that is truly an incest story and not FLIRTING with incest, as many stories still available on Amazon do, this is probably a book they would like to check out. I’ve seen it consistently recommended time and time again on several book forums. If incest, even consensual, is one of your personal buggaboos this isn’t the one for you, but ultimately it is a love story.
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