Yes, Daddy by Jonathan Parks-Ramage


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

What It’s About:

Yes, Daddy follows Jonah Keller, a Middle America young, gay man, who dreams of becoming a successful playwright. And while he moved to New York City to achieve this dream, he finds himself living in a rundown sublet, begging to work extra hours at a  restaurant, barely making rent each month. 

Enter Richard Shriver, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. Jonah orchestrates their meeting and soon they’re having a passionate affair. Things go well, at first. Richard lavishes Jonah with gifts and even offers to help pay for his rent. But nothing is free in this world, as Jonah soon finds out. 

Let’s Talk About It:

It’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing similar books. That was my struggle with Yes, Daddy. I jumped into it while I was still on the adrenaline high Bath Haus gave me. And I fear that this review might be marred by the afterglow. It’s not that Yes, Daddy wasn’t a good book; it’s that I wasn’t anticipating a redemption story. Bath Haus was a thrill-ride, keeping me at the edge of my seat. Tensions were high.* 

But Yes, Daddy? This seemed like it was lacking the anxiety. And while it’s not a thriller, there are moments in the book that turned my stomach.

It is a queer story set in the #MeToo era in which Richard Shriver is one part Kevin Spacey, one part Harvey Weinstein, and two equal parts Jeffrey Epstein. His buddies are painted like Marquis de Sade characters – old libertine men salivating at the sight of young men. There were moments during the “servant” scenes where I couldn’t help but to think of Salo, the movie loosely based on de Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom.** While the rape scenes aren’t grotesquely graphic in nature, they can be disorienting with the descriptions that are given. I guess, going to Salo, I should be thankful that there was no shit-eating scene. Yeah. Don’t watch that movie.***

But Jonathan Parks-Ramage sets up so much but does very little with it. Sure, the claustrophobic nature of being trapped on some sex fiend’s compound is anxiety fuel on its own, but the missing phone? The missing laptop? It felt like this was going to be a fight for your life story, but that fizzled out when Jonah is given a get-out-of-jail-free card. 

And when given the chance to set things right, to give what Richard and company deserved, Jonah freezes and folds under pressure. Protecting his assailants and betraying the trust of his friends and the audience. 

But I get it – this story wasn’t a tale of revenge, a tale of murder, or even a thriller. It was a redemption story – not for Richard, but for Jonah. It was a way to make sense of his choices and make amends to those who he hurt along the way to protect himself. It’s a story about healing the trauma that queer people go through – not with just the world, but with our families, friends, and the world at large. And that’s something I can get behind as a person. 

As the audience, however, I feel cheated. It feels like that’s not the story that was advertised. I wanted Richard to suffer. I wanted Jonah and company to fight their way out. I wanted some closure, at the very least. None of that is offered. And when it is, it’s just teased.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the excellent narration that Kevin R. Free does for the audiobook. His voice was instantly recognizable, having heard him several times playing Kevin from Desert Bluffs on the wildly popular podcast, Welcome to Night Vale. He did a marvelous job bringing this book to life and I look forward to finding more books narrated by him in the future.

Until next time, keep on huntin’. 

*In the review for Bath Haus, I mentioned how I feared that I’d be American Beauty-ed with the book. Yes, Daddy is a prime example of being American-Beauty-ed. (It’s weird how Kevin Spacey is in that movie. He’s such a piece of shit.)

**A sad fact about Salo, it was Pier Paolo Pasolini’s, its director, last film. He was murdered on a beach in Italy. And not just murdered, but like horrifically murdered. His body was found partially burned, ran over, and his genitals were mutilated. It’s been speculated that his murder was an assassination over his communistic beliefs and because he was an openly gay man. Giuseppe “Pino” Pelosi confessed to the murder and was convicted in 1976. However, he retracted his confession in 2005, stating that his family had been threatened with violence if he didn’t.

***Or do. I don’t tell you how to live your life.

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