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August Applegate is sixteen years old, and he’s known he’s gay for eleven of them. But in 1963, life in a small Appalachian hamlet doesn’t offer many opportunities to learn what that truly means.

That is, not until August spends one magical—if tumultuous—summer at Buck’s County Theatre Camp. There, he steps behind the curtains that shield the gay world from view and enters a bewildering universe of heated flings, dramatic breakups, and unspoken rules that leave his head spinning. Or perhaps that’s just his bunkmates: Pete, beautiful, charismatic, and secretive; and Farley Fairfield, chaos incarnate, who seems to hate August no matter what he does.

Thus begins a journey of many years, as August leaves camp and returns home to his loving, dysfunctional family; completes high school; attends college; survives life (once again) as Farley’s roommate; and finally sets out to build a life on his own terms. Navigating the uproar of the 1970s and into the next decade, August witnesses the defiant joy of the gay rights movement and the creeping dread of the AIDS crisis. Yet even amid the waning of old friendships, the withering of old loves, and the unspoken traumas that hold his family in their codependent orbits, the one thing August can’t get rid of is his tender, trusting “Pollyanna” heart.

But August’s stubborn optimism is more than just a chic set of rose-colored glasses. In fact, it might be the only pillar to which his loved ones can cling amid the relentless tides of fate. . . .

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