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The Codeword – Novella Five  5. The Judas Tree Novellas

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Fourteen-year-old Simon is getting a haircut. He has choices: a crew cut or a mullet; to continue his isolation, or to murmur a personal 'open sesame.' Later, with a little help from his friends, he finds out he is not nearly as alone as he imagined. And he suddenly can face the prospects of a long summer and entering high school in the fall with hope.

Please join in on the Judas Tree discussion forum here: http://www.gayauthors.org/forums/topic/39389-judas-tree-by-ac-benus/

Copyright © 2017 AC Benus; All Rights Reserved.

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Here's a long due review for the whole series of Judas Tree novella's.
From the dates of the "likes" I can see I read them months ago for the first time and since reread them over and over again. And every time I found more depth and every time I was wondering why it touched me so deeply.
This is an attempt to put words to those feelings.

 


Of course it’s the small Benusian things, like in the very beginning of the first novella the mentioning of the asbestos ceiling, which immediately gives you a hint as to the time-set of the story.
The novella’s are loaded with these kind of small jewels that makes reading them so enjoyable for me.
I won’t point them out, for I’m sure others have done that in their reviews already.

 


The first main line in the novella’s is the slow insight Simon gathers in himself and the hesitant acceptance of the fact that he is gay. With the heartwrenching betrayal of his best friend Dustin as a sort of pivoting point at a time he’s not ready for that acceptance yet. Although deep down he knows he has done his friend wrong, it takes some time before he sees that his environment (church and peers) more or less demand that action for as long as the wish to conform is his choice.
The development of that slow insight is masterfully done in my opinion, where in the beginning the young Simon is so pure and good and is not aware that people around him see things in him he doesn’t even know the existence of, growing up things start to get clearer.

 


The second main line is the slow awareness that the way the Catholic church is organized, blindly condemns people for what they are and pretends to have some superior knowledge about what is God’s will, is not for Simon. Not that he looses faith itself, but he looses faith in the people who place themselves between him and his God.
“I’m done.” is not just an answer to his confessor about the accomplishment of his penance, but gets a much broader meaning.

 


Another less obvious point is the power love has to forgive.
Dustin is not treated well by Simon (the symbol of the betraying kiss), but his love is strong enough to forgive Simon when he is ready to repent his actions. Not everyone would have a love that strong.
That love survives rejection, separation and time, and ultimately gives a happy ending to the fifth novella.

 


But why did the story touch me so ?
Recognition and envy is what I finally decided.
Recognition of the feeling not to belong, to be different and to feel so utterly alone with that. Feelings I have had for the most part of my life.
Envy in that Simon had a friend like Jodie, had a not so good friend like Terry, met Blakie, got the codeword and of course had Dustin as a boyfriend in the end.
For some reason I never encountered any of them in that stage of my life, only adding to the feeling of being alone.

 


And you know what the thing is ? I never before realized this in these terms. Your novella’s helped me to better understand myself and for that I will be forever grateful to you. So … a big thank you.

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On 09/30/2015 05:10 AM, J.HunterDunn said:

Here's a long due review for the whole series of Judas Tree novella's.

From the dates of the "likes" I can see I read them months ago for the first time and since reread them over and over again. And every time I found more depth and every time I was wondering why it touched me so deeply.

This is an attempt to put words to those feelings.

 

 

Of course it’s the small Benusian things, like in the very beginning of the first novella the mentioning of the asbestos ceiling, which immediately gives you a hint as to the time-set of the story.

The novella’s are loaded with these kind of small jewels that makes reading them so enjoyable for me.

I won’t point them out, for I’m sure others have done that in their reviews already.

 

 

The first main line in the novella’s is the slow insight Simon gathers in himself and the hesitant acceptance of the fact that he is gay. With the heartwrenching betrayal of his best friend Dustin as a sort of pivoting point at a time he’s not ready for that acceptance yet. Although deep down he knows he has done his friend wrong, it takes some time before he sees that his environment (church and peers) more or less demand that action for as long as the wish to conform is his choice.

The development of that slow insight is masterfully done in my opinion, where in the beginning the young Simon is so pure and good and is not aware that people around him see things in him he doesn’t even know the existence of, growing up things start to get clearer.

 

 

The second main line is the slow awareness that the way the Catholic church is organized, blindly condemns people for what they are and pretends to have some superior knowledge about what is God’s will, is not for Simon. Not that he looses faith itself, but he looses faith in the people who place themselves between him and his God.

“I’m done.” is not just an answer to his confessor about the accomplishment of his penance, but gets a much broader meaning.

 

 

Another less obvious point is the power love has to forgive.

Dustin is not treated well by Simon (the symbol of the betraying kiss), but his love is strong enough to forgive Simon when he is ready to repent his actions. Not everyone would have a love that strong.

That love survives rejection, separation and time, and ultimately gives a happy ending to the fifth novella.

 

 

But why did the story touch me so ?

Recognition and envy is what I finally decided.

Recognition of the feeling not to belong, to be different and to feel so utterly alone with that. Feelings I have had for the most part of my life.

Envy in that Simon had a friend like Jodie, had a not so good friend like Terry, met Blakie, got the codeword and of course had Dustin as a boyfriend in the end.

For some reason I never encountered any of them in that stage of my life, only adding to the feeling of being alone.

 

 

And you know what the thing is ? I never before realized this in these terms. Your novella’s helped me to better understand myself and for that I will be forever grateful to you. So … a big thank you.

Well, Peter – first an apology. You left this review quite a while ago, and although I read and pondered it when new, I suppose I delayed replying until I thought I had enough capacity to do so. Now, here it is, oodles of time later, and I have said exactly peep about it. I'm sorry…

 

Thank you for a wonderfully well-considered set of comments. Even hearing that you've read and re-read the series is compliment enough for me, so all the rest is a bonus :)

 

I suppose every Gay person embarks on a personal journey where he or she will have to actively un-bury or hide who they are. Simon is meant to illustrate that struggle and the things that may be there to keep us lying to ourselves, but to also show how false, shallow and destructive those 'baubles' really are. They all pale in comparison to love – and it is love that each and everyone of Gay people must find for ourselves that unties and frees us from the oppressive society that seeks our misery as tribute to it's self-hatred.

 

Thank you for reading this material, my dear friend, and I hope it continues to shed some light for others.

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(Chapter 1 Review - Novella One)
No, not scary, not like we normally use the word.
Your words, chosen with care, with love of the word itself, veil the undercurrents of this story. Veil it but we know what is lurking there, or feel we do.
I can't describe how this made me feel. Like reaching out to touch something so beautiful, but knowing all the while if I do, then it will crumble into dust, leaving something ugly.
AC, your writing, to me, is like a soaring bird, mighty and beautiful. Incredible.
My words are inadequate...
tim

 

Sometimes, only sometimes you find something,
Or someone, that is perfection.
It will be a word, or a story or a phrase or vista
that moves you, to a place where words have no value –
no meaning or use. Where the beauty there, brings tears
you cannot explain, nor can you stop. For there is just
nothing else we have to offer in the face of it.
- Tim Landon
(Written when I attempted to describe what I felt after reading the first chapter of the first Novella of the Judas Tree Novellas.)

 


If I think back to that first chapter, it still brings tears to my eyes because of the sheer beauty of what you created.
You are a gifted, talented writer, AC but I know how much work, and effort (read: research, much editing and rewrites) goes into all you do. You rarely tell your readers anything, but show them, immerse them in the world where your characters live, so they have no need to be told, for they can feel everything, see everything and live it through your characters and their world.
In Judas Tree we meet Simon, a young man discovering life and sometimes ugly truths about people and the world, but more—he teaches us, reminds us what goodness is and sometimes what mistakes are—and what forgiveness is.
This is Simon’s journey as he learns about himself, slowly coming to know he is different from many other boys because he is Gay. He learns about friendship and that he, himself, isn’t above being cruel.
This story is also about one of my favourite institutions, the Catholic Church. A place, in my opinion that has nothing at all to do with God, but I’ll stop there. Simon tries to be a good Catholic boy, but Simon is bright and not blind to what is happening around him. Eventually he comes to see the problem isn’t really God, but the people who dare to speak for Him.
My own life was much different to Simon’s, yet there were many places where I could relate to him and his experience. The story is a beautiful one. Simon is a rose you’ve grown, tended to and fussed over and you watch is daily to see how it grows and changes and eventually you are rewarded with a beautiful one-of-a-kind flower. Yes, it’s the same kind of rose as the others on the bush, but still an individual.

 

I hope people will read Judas Tree with an open mind and heart. Join Simon as he learns and grows, as he discovers himself and the world and finds his own place within it.
Still my words are inadequate, AC.

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On 07/09/2016 01:31 AM, Mikiesboy said:

(Chapter 1 Review - Novella One)

No, not scary, not like we normally use the word.

Your words, chosen with care, with love of the word itself, veil the undercurrents of this story. Veil it but we know what is lurking there, or feel we do.

I can't describe how this made me feel. Like reaching out to touch something so beautiful, but knowing all the while if I do, then it will crumble into dust, leaving something ugly.

AC, your writing, to me, is like a soaring bird, mighty and beautiful. Incredible.

My words are inadequate...

tim

 

Sometimes, only sometimes you find something,

Or someone, that is perfection.

It will be a word, or a story or a phrase or vista

that moves you, to a place where words have no value –

no meaning or use. Where the beauty there, brings tears

you cannot explain, nor can you stop. For there is just

nothing else we have to offer in the face of it.

- Tim Landon

(Written when I attempted to describe what I felt after reading the first chapter of the first Novella of the Judas Tree Novellas.)

 

 

If I think back to that first chapter, it still brings tears to my eyes because of the sheer beauty of what you created.

You are a gifted, talented writer, AC but I know how much work, and effort (read: research, much editing and rewrites) goes into all you do. You rarely tell your readers anything, but show them, immerse them in the world where your characters live, so they have no need to be told, for they can feel everything, see everything and live it through your characters and their world.

In Judas Tree we meet Simon, a young man discovering life and sometimes ugly truths about people and the world, but more—he teaches us, reminds us what goodness is and sometimes what mistakes are—and what forgiveness is.

This is Simon’s journey as he learns about himself, slowly coming to know he is different from many other boys because he is Gay. He learns about friendship and that he, himself, isn’t above being cruel.

This story is also about one of my favourite institutions, the Catholic Church. A place, in my opinion that has nothing at all to do with God, but I’ll stop there. Simon tries to be a good Catholic boy, but Simon is bright and not blind to what is happening around him. Eventually he comes to see the problem isn’t really God, but the people who dare to speak for Him.

My own life was much different to Simon’s, yet there were many places where I could relate to him and his experience. The story is a beautiful one. Simon is a rose you’ve grown, tended to and fussed over and you watch is daily to see how it grows and changes and eventually you are rewarded with a beautiful one-of-a-kind flower. Yes, it’s the same kind of rose as the others on the bush, but still an individual.

 

I hope people will read Judas Tree with an open mind and heart. Join Simon as he learns and grows, as he discovers himself and the world and finds his own place within it.

Still my words are inadequate, AC.

Gosh, your review is so amazing, Tim. You offer me compliments and praise, and you sum up Simon's journey with beauty and grace. I do work hard at writing, but there's a comment that Mozart made about his piano music that comes to mind: "It should be hard for the performer, but easy on the listener." Sometime I wonder if I achieve that aesthetic balance, but other times I happen to get caught up in something I written and not thought about a while, and feel that I have done just that.

 

Thank you for your support and wonderful comments. I appreciate them more than words can say. :)

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