I first found out about this book when someone retweeted an article about it onto my timeline. I’d never heard of the book and thought it looked interesting so I dug a little deeper and read the synopsis. Not only was the synopsis intriguing, but Hanya Yanagihara had praised it highly. If you know me at all then you know how I feel about A Little Life so I knew I had to read this book, haha. I could tell from the first chapter that I was going to like this book a lot and that held true. I read about half of it myself and listened to half of it on audiobook.
This book takes place in Bulgaria so I enjoyed hearing the Bulgarian dialogue in the audiobook rather than completely butchering it in my head, haha. What Belongs To You is very stream-of-consciousness. There are lots of run-on sentences and stylistically, Greenwell chose not to use any quotation marks for dialogue. Just jumping into the book can be jarring, but I started out listening to the audiobook so it definitely helped ease me into the style of the novel. Now that I have finished reading it and have reflected on it a bit, I think all of the choices made really lent themselves to the tone of the novel and who our main character was. I would have to say that What Belongs to You is one of the most poetic, honest and human books I have read in a while.
Our main character, who is unnamed in this book, really bears his soul to us. His loneliness, lust and desire were so incredibly palpable and after getting his backstory you can better understand why he is the way he is now. I think there is something in him that everyone can relate to.
The relationship between him and Mitko was a rollercoaster. Mitko had a crazy hold on him and he just couldn’t free himself. It was hard to watch him constantly letting Mitko back into his life when he just wasn’t good for him. I’m honestly still confused even now about my feelings on Mitko. He’s a really interesting character.
What Belongs to You is pretty short, but it managed to tell a story I was satisfied with. A lot of shorter novels feel half-baked to me, but that was not the case here. I would absolutely recommend others check this book out. It would be a good one if you are looking for a diverse and/or #ownvoices novel as this book contains gay characters and was written by a gay male.
Tiny disclaimer: This book contains mature content so if you are very young or just not comfortable with that, now you know!
I requested this book from Farrar, Strauss and Giroux and they very kindly sent it to me to review.
On an unseasonably warm autumn day, an American teacher enters a public bathroom beneath Sofia’s National Palace of Culture. There he meets Mitko, a charismatic young hustler, and pays him for sex. He returns to Mitko again and again over the next few months, drawn by hunger and loneliness and risk, and finds himself ensnared in a relationship in which lust leads to mutual predation, and tenderness can transform into violence. As he struggles to reconcile his longing with the anguish it creates, he’s forced to grapple with his own fraught history, the world of his southern childhood where to be queer was to be a pariah. There are unnerving similarities between his past and the foreign country he finds himself in, a country whose geography and griefs he discovers as he learns more of Mitko’s own narrative, his private history of illness, exploitation, and want.