The oldest translation of a Gospel is returned to the world by a secret society long dedicated to its preservation. In it, Jesus explicitly condemns bigotry and homophobia. In a new world in which LGBTQ passengers receive preferential boarding for flights and the United States has elected its first lesbian President, Pastor Rick Harris is stalwart, closeted preacher who doggedly holds onto his increasingly unpopular convictions.
When an incendiary sermon goes too far and offends an influential family, Rick makes a painful choice to keep his job: He attends an atonement camp run by drag queens for society’s most unrepentant and terminally incurable homophobes.
Atonement Camp is immersion therapy for Pastor Harris, and it might be working. An open bar with pedicures, a devastatingly attractive roommate and an endless supply of glitter help him manage to make new friends. Soon, Rick and his cohorts learn the camp may hold its own secrets. Amid the smiling faces and scantily clad pool boys who staff the camp, a clandestine group plots to discredit the New Revelation and everything it stands for.
If Rick has the conviction to confront his own hypocrisy, he might be able to uncover the conspirators with help from his adopted flock—and find new truths within himself.
Atonement Camp for Unrepentant Homophobes is an adult queer contemporary fiction by Evan J. Corbin. It’s set world that has found a lost section of the Bible that says God accepted homosexuality and that there was no shame in it. In this world, homophobes are sent to atonement camps in order to show them the error in their hateful beliefs.
“Being gay isn’t a choice. It’s not some free trial period at a gym. It’s an identity.”
This follows Rick, a pastor holding onto the hateful views of his father, as his homosexual condemning sermon gets him sent to an Atonement camp. Here he finds himself exploring his own repressed desires and in the middle of something much larger than him. Now besides Rick’s self acceptance/ redemption arc there’s a larger story arc that in times had me scratching my head, so I’m sorry if I butcher my recap. Turns out different groups want to get their hands on the ‘artifact’ which is the discovered lost pages of bible. Some members of the church want it to be confirmed as authentic because the church’s engagement has risen since it was found, but there are members of the church who think differently. There’s also a whole society of homosexuals that want it to be confirmed as fake because their whole identity is being taken over and cheapened and objectified by straight people. Rick finds himself involved in the fight over the artifact, on the side that wants to prove its authenticity. Whether they win or lose this fight, things are far from over.
“It’s one thing to love the idea of someone. Another thing to love the person.”
Phew now let’s get to the fun part, the characters! Rick was frustrating as all get out, but still an enjoyable narrator. I most enjoyed his flashbacks to his childhood and his first time falling in love before his homophobic father traumatized him into hating himself. His quick infatuation with his bunk mate Jimmy was naive yet believable because I myself was smitten with Jimmy, he was hard not to like. Their romance is sweet with a fade to black intimacy scene. I was also thrilled with the surprise reunion Rick is given at the end after having his bubble with Jimmy popped.
“Here he sat, the sum of all his choice, success, and failures. They all led him here.”
Atonement Camp for Unrepentant Homophobes ends with a satisfying feeling of hope for Rick’s future, but uncertainty in the LGBTQ+ world. I do have a copy of the next book, and I’m hoping it picks back up with Rick.
CW: homophobia, alcohol and drug use