Roger B. Thomas’ novels are refreshing because they are not overtly religious. Instead, as in “The Accidental Marriage,” he creates compelling tales of real people struggling with the pressures created by the decay of morality, the decline of religion, and the desert of relativism.
The Accidental Marriage: A Novel, by Roger B. Thomas (219 pages, Ignatius Press, 2014)
Novelist Roger B. Thomas sidesteps the quicksand in his charming novel, The Accidental Marriage. Instead of writing an angry essay deploring same-sex marriage, LBGTQ activism, and the general decay of morality, he writes a compassionate tale of real people caught in the mire of the marriage mess.
Scott is a young, gay computer geek with a top notch job in San Francisco. His lesbian friend Megan is in a marriage type relationship with Diane. Diane wants Megan to have “their baby” but because they’re on a tight budget Megan resorts to a do-it-yourself artificial insemination kit. Scott offers to donate the sperm for Megan’s proposed conception, but when the gadgetry doesn’t work he donates his sperm “the old fashioned way.”
Diane finds out and is jealous. Meanwhile Scott kicks his freeloading boyfriend out of his apartment. When the now pregnant Megan loses her job and health insurance, Scott offers a marriage of convenience so she can be added to his policy. Diane turns nasty and, rather predictably, Scott offers homeless and pregnant Megan a place to stay.
I won’t spoil the plot any further. Just to say, Roger Thomas takes that predictable plot line and adds new events that surprise and delight. As the story unfolds we see two mixed up kids learn about themselves, life, and love in a winsome story full of wisdom and good will.
“Good will” because, although Mr. Thomas writes from a conservative position, he does so with gentle humor that is reminiscent of the screwball comedies of the 1930s and 40s. We sympathize with Scott and Megan because they seem like ordinary kids who have got caught up in a mess that is bigger than they are. When we learn more about their backstories our concern and understanding for them grows, and we see that maybe the gays and lesbians we might have been ready to condemn are people who are struggling, as people always have, with the tragi-comedy of marriage and family, society’s demands, growing up, and the complex matrix of human sexuality.
Mr. Thomas’ novels are refreshing because they are not overtly religious. Instead he creates compelling tales of real people struggling with the pressures created by the decay of morality, the decline of religion, and the desert of relativism. He weaves into The Accidental Marriage an encounter with a religious counselor, but the conversations are low key, believable, and down-to-earth. There are no miraculous conversions and amazing religious insights. The faith is embedded in the story as it should be, and when religion proves to be the catalyst for a major turning point we see how it fits into the whole story rather than being a deus ex machina plot device.
While I enjoyed The Accidental Marriage, I can see why members of the LGBTQ community may have hated it. They would accuse Roger Thomas of not truly understanding gay men and lesbian women. They might say his depiction of the genesis of the homosexual condition is facile and lacking in subtlety.
The book might certainly be read that way, and Roger Thomas could have explored the complexities of same-sex attraction with more depth and subtlety, but then it would have been a treatise on homosexuality, not a novel. While the genesis and resolution of Scott and Megan’s same-sex attraction could be written off as superficial, it must also be said that Mr. Thomas has accurately explored several dimensions of the condition with tact and understanding.
We should not criticize a work for what it is not. Roger Thomas has not attempted a complete analysis of homosexuality. Instead, he has done us a service in providing a light-hearted, yet moving novel which discusses the problem without declining into propaganda or preaching.
LGBTQ activists may be angry with Mr. Thomas’ treatment of their condition and their cause, but they can’t accuse him of being unkind, calloused, or condemnatory.
It’s a shame that novelists of Mr. Thomas’ quality are so often overlooked, that publishers are unable to commit to the long term investment in an author like Mr. Thomas. Before the current publishing revolution a publisher would work with an author like Mr. Thomas to build up his list, market his books and promote his writing with dedication, hard work, and not a little investment.
Now as books are treated increasingly as disposable commodities, budding novelists will struggle more than ever to get recognized and read.
It remains, therefore, for Roger Thomas’ growing gang of fans to talk up his work, promote it the best they can and encourage more readers to engage with his contemporary stories of faith in action.
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The featured image is “The Unequal Marriage” (1862) by Vassili Vladimirovich Pukiryov (1832-1890), courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.