Book Review: Lola Dances by Victor Banis

By Carol Hoyer, PhD freelance book reviewer and college professor

I have to be very honest when I say I have never read a book about this subject- man-man relationships in a fictional format. As a psychologist I have read several books on the study of homosexual relationships, and memoirs of individuals. When I was given this book to review, I really had no idea what it was about.

Having said that I will honestly say I was very intrigued and impressed with the way Mr. Banis described his characters, the environment and events that occurred. His ability to describe and go into the mind of his characters made you actually feel you were there. I felt sorry for Terry Murphy, anger at the mining camp members and often disgust for his older brother Brian. Yet at the same time, I can see all this happening with our society- ignorance of individuals; taking advantage of individuals who are different from the “main stream.”

Terry Murphy was a young effeminate man- his goal was to be a dancer. Hopefully, this goal would get him out of poverty, injustices and provide him the love and attention he wanted and needed. His older brother Brian was your typical “macho” man- loud, belligerent and selfish. His job was to protect his younger brother from those who might take advantage of him. Brian was very vocal on how he felt about “queers” and what people would do to him and his brother if they found out. It was nothing for him to verbally and physically abuse his younger brother. Eventually, this led to taking advantage of him sexually as well.

Terry was living a very secluded life. He didn’t go out unless he absolutely had to. He knew people were looking at him and making disparaging remarks. Yet at the same time, he was looking for something; he didn’t know what. But he knew in his heart he was “different” than the men in the camp.

A few times, Terry is taken advantage of by men who want to exploit him and keep it a secret. Terry is stunned and confused the first time he is raped. He finds a protector Tom. While Tom and Terry know there is a connection- neither are experienced enough to know what it is. However, Terry’s brother decides it is time to move away and look for fortune elsewhere.

Terry’s adventures lead him to becoming Lola- a vibrant, exciting female dancer that attracts all to her. Lola is known everywhere and Terry finds that his two roles of Terry and Lola present two different major feelings.

An incredible story of one individual trying to find out his path in life. Mr. Banis did an excellent job. As a psychologist, even though the book is fictional, it really gave me more insight into man-man relationships and the turmoil they often go through. I think it’s time everyone read a book like this and got their head out of the sand.

Carol Hoyer

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