Title: The Tin Box
Author: Kim Fielding
Narrator: K.C. Kelly
Release Date: June 18th, 2015
Genre(s): M/M; Contemporary Romance, Coming Out
Audio Length: 7 hrs 26 mins
Reviewed by: JLoves2Read for Gay Book Reviews and Alpha Book Club
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
William Lyon’s past forced him to become someone he isn’t. Conflicted and unable to maintain the charade, he separates from his wife and takes a job as caretaker at a former mental hospital. Jelley’s Valley State Insane Asylum was the largest mental hospital in California for well over a century, but it now stands empty. William thinks the decrepit institution is the perfect place to finish his dissertation and wait for his divorce to become final. In town, William meets Colby Anderson, who minds the local store and post office. Unlike William, Colby is cute, upbeat, and flamboyantly out. Although initially put off by Colby’s mannerisms, William comes to value their new friendship, and even accepts Colby’s offer to ease him into the world of gay sex.
William’s self-image begins to change when he discovers a tin box, hidden in an asylum wall since the 1940s. It contains letters secretly written by Bill, a patient who was sent to the asylum for being homosexual. The letters hit close to home, and William comes to care about Bill and his fate. With Colby’s help, he hopes the words written 70 years ago will give him courage to be his true self.
William Lyon’s story begins with him taking a job at a former mental institution in the destitute and remote area known as Jelley’s Valley. When William takes this job he plans to enjoy the remoteness and write his dissertation, nothing else. Little does he know that fate has other plans as he meets, Colby Anderson. Colby is Jelley’s Valley resident gay man. William is at first undecided about Colby – he can’t decided what makes him tick – all he knows is the man is totally gay and totally different than him. William decides quickly that he has nothing in common with Colby and attempts to only interact with him as he has too, when shopping or getting his mail. Colby on the other hand has other ideas and finds creative ways to insert himself into Williams life. As the two get to know each other Colby helps William come out of his shell and loosen up while learning to explore his sexuality. You see William is a repressed gay man who has not only been taught it was wrong to be gay but has his own horrific past that taught him being gay was wrong. Colby decides he is going to help William explore his sexuality, thereby increasing Jelley’s Valley gay population to two!
One night while William is at the Jelley’s Valley institution he starts to explore and finds an old tin lunch box, it is what is inside this lunch box that forever changes William. Because inside this century old tin box are letters from Bill to Johnny. Bill was a resident at Jelley’s Valley institution and his illness was homosexuality. Let me just warn you these letters are not pretty and they speak to the horrific past that people who were different faced at a time when psychiatric care was not as strictly governed as it is now. As William reads these letters he starts to accept that his situation, being gay and not accepted by his family, is not even half as dire as Bill’s was almost a hundred years ago. It is through these letters and with Colby’s creative help that William learns to accept himself, love himself, and transition from an uptight-in-the-closet-man to a fun-loving-out-and-proud-gay-man named, Will.
As William transitions from William Lyon to Will Lyon he also transitions from in-the-closet to out-gay-man, one thing he doesn’t anticipate is falling in love with the man who at one point puzzled him – Colby. He also doesn’t anticipate the trouble that he will have convincing Colby that he is exactly what he wants.
This is a highly emotional story. The letters in the tin box ripped my heart apart. Watching Will and Colby fall in love put it back together again. The narrator K.C. Kelly does an excellent job in this story bringing emotion and depth to the underlying horror story that these men faced while trying to be accepted in a society that wasn’t ready to accept their type of love. This book isn’t for the faint of heart let me warn you now. It is however a wonderful love story.