WHAT BELONGS TO YOU - Garth Greenwell

27 July 2021 ☼ notesfrom 20162016 booksmy 2021

an unnamed American teacher, our narrator, in a public bathroom beneath Sofia’s National Palace of Culture, meets Mitko: a charismatic, beautiful young hustler. he pays him for sex. over the coming months, their relationship grows & distorts in intimacy & threat. struggling to reconcile longing with the pain Mitko causes, he grapples, too, with his own fraught history.

how pasts & cultures, the scars they leave, shape us; the unresolved trauma of parental rejection - the final sequence includes sweet vignettes of loving kindness between parents & children, presented as something only others can have. continued taboo of homosexuality in the ruins of post-communist eastern Europe, similar to the narrator’s homeland of southern America - still searching for its identity.

long streams of consciousness, tens of pages in some cases, don’t whip too fiercely - they make sense without paragraph breaks mid-momentum. sex is mostly implied but expertly explicit when described. how a traditional upbringing conditions a sweet, innocent kid to link desire with humiliation, that kid then transforming into a man addicted to that connection. vague & unmemorable title. weak on setting - i knew nothing of Bulgaria’s contextual significance for the story by the end - & backstory - i knew nothing of why he ended up there.

(27 July 2021: 667) - did not keep