Larry H's Reviews > What Belongs to You

What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell
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it was amazing

Some books dazzle you with plot twists and action, yet some books can truly wow you with the power of their storytelling, their language, and their imagery. Garth Greenwell's debut novel, What Belongs to You , definitely falls into the latter category. It's stunning, emotional, lyrical, and it quietly grabs you and doesn't let go.

One unseasonably warm afternoon in October, our narrator, an American teacher living in Bulgaria, goes to a restroom in Sofia's National Palace of Culture. This is a restroom where men go to have sexual encounters, and he is aware of this, but meeting Mitko, a young hustler, takes him by surprise. He pays Mitko for sex, and finds himself immensely drawn to him, so he returns to that restroom over and over. And although he knows inherently that Mitko is going through the motions with him as he probably does with his other "friends," he still hopes that he might find his way into Mitko's heart.

"...how helpless desire is outside its little theater of heat, how ridiculous it becomes the moment it isn't welcomed, even if that welcome is contrived."

He comes to terms with the fact that while Mitko may enjoy their encounters, ultimately Mitko sees him as a source for money, and there is a fine line between knowing you're being used and fearing you may be harmed as a result. As he tries to decide what to do with Mitko, an urgent message forces him to confront his own childhood, and the mistreatment and veiled disgust with which he was treated once he accepted his sexuality. He also tries to decipher the patterns in his behavior that has led him to the same situations time and time again.

"...always I feel an ambivalence that spurs me first in one direction and then another, a habit that has done much damage."

What Belongs to You is a novel about desire, and the desire to be wanted. It's about the struggle between following your heart and your libido instead of your head, and both the consequences and triumphs that come from doing so. It's also about how the hardest thing to do is reconcile your own issues with self-esteem, and finally realize only you can be responsible for your happiness and satisfaction.

Greenwell's talent is evident from the very first lines of this book, and his poetic use of language and storytelling ability sustains through the book's entirety. I truly cared about the narrator and worried what would become of him, hoping against hope that Greenwell wouldn't abandon the purity of his story for the sensational, and was so pleased he didn't. This is a beautiful, magnificent, deeply felt book, and I felt privileged to read it. I can't wait to see where Greenwell's career takes him—I know I'll be following.
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Reading Progress

November 16, 2015 – Shelved
November 16, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
January 19, 2016 – Started Reading
January 21, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-34 of 34 (34 new)

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Elyse Walters awwwww, you have your hands on this book. I've been reading about it for months before it came out. Love to know your thoughts. I was tempted to buy it yesterday --but waited --as I still have so many books on my plate. The story sounds fascinating. I hope its good?/!!


Larry H So far it's just beautifully written. Gorgeous prose.


Elyse Walters wow..........ok, wonderful I connected with this book-the first time I read about it! :)


message 4: by Jennifer (new) - added it

Jennifer Masterson Great review Larry! I'm putting it on my list. :)


message 5: by Erika (new)

Erika What a great review! Thanks.


Elyse Walters Great-GREAT...review, Larry. You express this novel well.
When I was in HS, I had a terrific government teacher. Tom Hanks went to school with me too.
I spent a lot of time with this teacher involved with student activities - VIce President of my class.
Everyone loved Mr. Besse.
Well, years later, he was caught and arrested for having sex in a public men's bathroom.
I found out about it on the evening news.

I look forward to reading this too. Thanks!


message 7: by Esil (new) - added it

Esil Great review Larry. This one definitely sounds worth considering


Jordan Rosenberg Thanks Larry. I've been thinking of reading this book and your review was very helpful in convincing me to do so...


Larry H Thanks, everyone. It's just so beautifully written. It's tremendously reflective and it really resonated for me emotionally. Hope anyone who picks this up enjoys it!

Elyse, thanks for sharing your story!!


Leonel What a great review for what I truly hear is a great book


message 11: by Carol (new) - added it

Carol What a lovely review, Larry.


Larry H Thanks so much, Leonel and Carol!!


Elyse Walters Thanks Larry.... I got the physical book yesterday & a new spiffy car! Lol
Big day here in my house. Lol.


Larry H Wow, congrats!! Enjoy both!!


Elyse Walters Thanks :)


Kelli I don't know how I'm going to review this! Wow! I am haunted.


Elyse Walters Oh my God... So you read it Kelli?
I wish you were hiking with me this morning.
Do you believe that book? On one hand written so WELL...(geeee)...
on the other hand..it can leave you feeling so yucky ..

Let me know --please- when your review is up ..
I miss so much of dailies ( I get them once a week), but for some reason half come - others go right to trash - ( my phone does it- not me)...
then get busy .. harder to dig back up..
Plus I'm on jury duty..schedule is hit & miss --but I don't go back until Tuesday. So, please remind me.
You aren't sorry you read it - are you?
Hugs Kelli


Kelli It's snowing like crazy here. My GR feed is also very off lately. I thought the book was very well done!


Elyse Walters Ok... So I'm not the only one even without snow!
Stay toasty warm and safe, Kelli


Larry H It really was, wasn't it Kelli?


Kelli Yes, Larry. I'm struggling to put it into words.


message 22: by Jaidee (new)

Jaidee Larry would you say this is a love story or more of a struggling with self story.

I think your review is excellent.


Larry H Probably more an accepting yourself story, realizing how events in your life have shaped you and made you who you are.


message 24: by Jaidee (new)

Jaidee Larry wrote: "Probably more an accepting yourself story, realizing how events in your life have shaped you and made you who you are."

Thanks Larry.


message 25: by Greg (new) - rated it 5 stars

Greg Larry, great review. I agree, this is a beautifully written work. And it reads like a true story.


Larry H Greg wrote: "Larry, great review. I agree, this is a beautifully written work. And it reads like a true story."

Thanks, Greg! I've read a number of interviews with Garth Greenwell and I think this is a tiny bit autobiographical, which is probably why it rings so true and authentic.


message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

Awesome review!!


Larry H Jennifer wrote: "Awesome review!!"

Thanks so much, Jennifer! This was a great book.


message 29: by Victoria (new)

Victoria Beautiful, contemplative review. I love writing that makes us reflect and then reconcile who we are and where we are in our lives.


Larry H Victoria wrote: "Beautiful, contemplative review. I love writing that makes us reflect and then reconcile who we are and where we are in our lives."

Thank you so much, Victoria! This was such a sensational book.


message 31: by Karen (new)

Karen Wonderful review Larry!! I'm adding this one!


Larry H Karen wrote: "Wonderful review Larry!! I'm adding this one!"

Thanks, Karen! I hope you enjoy it.


message 33: by Heidi (new) - added it

Heidi Looks amazing! My to read list grows whenever I read your reviews!


Larry H Heidi wrote: "Looks amazing! My to read list grows whenever I read your reviews!"

Thanks, Heidi! This is a special book.


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