Breaking Free: A Journey of Self-Discovery

5 out of 5 stars

I was absolutely blown away by Gay the Pray Away by Natalie Naudus. From the moment I pressed play, I was hooked on Valerie Danners’ compelling journey of self-discovery and her courage to think differently and be herself. The story of a young girl navigating her feelings in a conservative Christian community (read: cult) is both heart-wrenching and uplifting, and it resonated with me on a deeply personal level. Naudus’s ability to weave her personal experiences into Valerie’s story makes it even more authentic and relatable.

One of the most impressive aspects of Gay the Pray Away is how Naudus handles sensitive topics like abuse and the deconstruction of rigid belief systems. The depictions are subtle yet impactful, making the listener fully grasp the gravity of Valerie’s situation feeling overwhelmed but WITH her.

I found myself cheering for Valerie as she navigated her way through a world of forbidden love and oppressive doctrines. Her journey felt personal, almost as if she were a cousin or a close friend coming out of the darkness and into a new way of living. This story is a testament to the power of love and the importance of finding one’s true self, and I am thrilled that this is only the beginning of Naudus’s literary career.

Outside of being a great book from beginning to end, what sets this audiobook apart is the fact that it is narrated by the author herself. Naudus brings a unique and powerful voice to her characters, each one vividly brought to life through her narration. When a professional narrator narrates their own creation – it always comes out extra special. They imbue it with a level of emotion and insight that no one else can match. Naudus does exactly that, delivering a heartfelt and deeply engaging performance. It reminded me of books by Nick Sullivan and Travis Baldree, both professional narrators before they became authors, to name a few.

Overall, I loved it! It was honest and refreshing. I love hearing from a new voice – even if it’s a familiar one as an audiobook listener. Oh, and I love that this was also a love letter to the power and inclusiveness of libraries.

Book Description:

Valerie Danners is in a cult. She just doesn’t know it yet. When she finds a queer book at the library and smuggles it home, her conservative Christian homeschooling world begins to crack. And when the cutest girl she’s ever met shows up to Bible class, she starts to question everything.

Riley is so confident and kind, and she and Valerie bond quickly over existing as multiracial teens in a very white Christian community. As Valerie explores her feelings for Riley, she begins to see that the world she knows is a carefully crafted narrative.

Publicly, the girls are close friends—holding hands in prayer, rooming together at a conference. Privately, they grasp at any chance to continue their forbidden romance—until they are found out. Now, Valerie must choose between staying with a family she fears will never accept her, or running away with the girl she loves.

 

five-stars
Gay the Pray Away by Natalie Naudus
Narrator: Natalie Naudus
Length: 7 hrs and 12 mins
Published by Self Published on June 4th 2024
Genres: Coming of Age, LesFic/Sapphic Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Buy from Audible
five-stars
Brian

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