Sugarless: A Novel

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Things look bad for Rick Lahrem, a high school sophomore in a cookie-cutter Chicago suburb in 1976. His mother’s second husband is a licensed psychologist who eats like an ape, his stepsister is a stoner slut, and his father is engaged to a Southern belle. Rick’s only solace is his growing collection of original Broadway-cast LPs, bought on the sly at Wax Trax.

Sugarless: A Novel

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  • Sugarless: A Novel


After he brings two girls in speech class to tears by reading a story aloud, Rick is coaxed onto the interscholastic forensics team to perform an eight-minute dramatic interpretation of The Boys in the Band, the controversial sixties play about homosexuality. Unexpectedly successful at this oddball event, Rick begins winning tournaments and making friends with his teammates. Rick also discovers the joys of sex—with a speech coach from a rival school—just as his mother, reacting to a deteriorating home environment, makes an unnerving commitment to Christ. The newly confident Rick assumes this too shall pass—until the combined forces of family, sex, and faith threaten to undo him at the state meet in Peoria. James Magruder’s Sugarless offers a ruefully entertaining take on the simultaneous struggles of coming-out, coming-of-age, and coming-to-Jesus. “In this fascinating 1970s coming-of-age story, playwright and translator Magruder introduces readers to Rick Lahrem, a high school sophomore struggling with his sexuality, his loneliness and his new stepfamily . . . While this novel may be about a homosexual relationship in the 1970s, the story captures the struggles of teenagers, straight and gay, of every generation.” —Publishers Weekly “The tale of adolescent sexual awakening in James Magruder’s Sugarless reads so true it feels like it should be thrust into the hands of every confused protogay teenager.” —Out Magazine “Magruder is a writer of immense gifts, with a voice —smart, playful, lyrical, subtle, unsparing —utterly unlike anyone else’s.” —Tony Kushner, playwright of Angels in America “Sugarless is the rough chutes and ladders of adolescence against a realistic and hilarious evocation of the 1970s. If you ever wondered what makes boys tick, or you’ve been in danger of forgetting, this is the book you’ve been looking for.” —Amy Bloom, author of Away

Sugarless Book Trailer from drury bynum on Vimeo.

Additional Information

Author James Magruder
Publisher Terrace Books
Page Count 224pp
Publication Size 5.5 x 8.5
Publication Notes Hardcover
Publication Date October 1, 2009
ISBN 978-0299233808

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