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Monday Rent Boy

Monday Rent Boy

By the author of the award-winning The Ghost Garden, a bravely imagined, deeply empathetic novel of two adolescent boys, bound by friendship and a terrible secret. With love and sex so deeply entwined with betrayal and abuse, how does a boy grow up?

Monday Rent Boy begins in Somerset, England, in the mid-1980s, with the winning and heart-warming story of two 13-year-old friends and fellow altar boys, Arthur Barnes and Ernie Castlefrank. Endearing outcasts, they try not to speak of the secret tie that binds them: both boys are routinely preyed on by The Zipper, their nickname for Father Ziperto, the local Catholic priest. Still, they find adventure and release in the mischief they get up to together, as each also tries to survive in other ways. Arthur, a great reader and denier of reality, finds an ally in town bookseller Marina Phillips. Ernie, a gifted mathematician and animal lover, is not so lucky. As he and Arthur age out of the abuse, Ernie notices younger and equally vulnerable boys being recruited. When he tries to blow the whistle, nobody believes him. At 16, he disappears, a loss that almost destroys his best friend but also confirms for Arthur that he was smart to stay silent.

Arthur eventually also turns his back on the mystery of Ernie's disappearance, but his bookselling mentor and friend Marina Phillips finds a way to follow Ernie where rage and betrayal has led him—into the darkest corners of the dark web—a search that ultimately helps Arthur reckon with what happened to them both. In the novel’s stunning, deeply affecting conclusion, Doherty draws a line directly from the covered-up abuse of children by Catholic priests to the current proliferation of child pornography and predators online—miraculously revealing the true heart of darkness while managing to affirm the light.