Book Talk – THE SIN-EATER’S CONFESSION by Ilsa J. Bick

Ben’s life is planned. He’s the valedictorian, spends all of his free time volunteering at the ER, and should be accepted in Yale any day now. When the star football player is killed in a car accident, Ben only does what is right – he shows up at the the family’s dairy farm to help with the chores. Other well-meaning people do the same, as everyone knows that Jimmy – the skinny, quiet younger brother – isn’t going to be able to fill the shoes left empty by Del’s death.

Though the other neighbors drift away in the days following, Ben remains. An urge to protect Jimmy – from the fists of his father and from the rumors of their classmates – keeps him there long into the summer and the hay-baling season. When Jimmy snaps a candid shot of Ben sleeping on the hay wagon, neither of them can know the eruption that will follow.

Jimmy’s natural talent lands him a prestigious photography prize – but the picture he took without Ben’s knowledge is loaded with implied sexuality. The rumors flare, Jimmy’s father’s fists fly, and Ben never returns to the farm. Now Ben’s name is linked with Jimmy’s in the gossip-mill of small town Wisconsin, where you fit in… or you don’t.

Angry with his friend for using the photo without his permission, and even more angry with himself for not knowing exactly how he feels about Jimmy, Ben plans to confront him – but instead witnesses his murder. It’s an old-fashoined stoning, with a hatchet thrown in. Terrified, Ben flees the scene – and spends the following years wondering what kind of person abandons their friend to a violent death.

Who is Ben, really? What did he feel for Jimmy? What does he feel now? Can he live the life that’s been planned for him with blood on his hands? And more importantly, does he want to fit the mold that has been cast for him by his family and classmates, or strike out into territory when he’s truly in charge of his own life?


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