Real Life

Brandon Taylor

fiction contemporary lgbtqia+
emotional reflective sad medium-paced

336 pages | first published 2020

A novel of startling intimacy, violence, and mercy among friends in a Midwestern university town, from an electric new voice.

A novel of rare emotional power that excavates the social intricacies of a late-summer weekend--and a lifetime of buried pain. Almost everything about Wallace, an introverted African-American transplant from Alabama, is at odds with the lakeside Midwestern university town where he is working toward a biochem degree. For reasons of self-preservation, Wallace has enforced a wary distance even within his own circle of friends--some dating each other, some dating women, some feigning straightness. But a series of confrontations with colleagues, and an unexpected encounter with a young straight man, conspire to fracture his defenses, while revealing hidden currents of resentment and desire that threaten the equilibrium of their community.

Real Life is a gut punch of a novel, a story that asks if it's ever really possible to overcome our private wounds and buried histories--and at what cost.

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emotional 87%
reflective 75%
sad 63%
dark 48%
challenging 38%
tense 33%
hopeful 5%
funny 3%
informative 2%
inspiring 2%
adventurous 1%
lighthearted 0%
mysterious 0%
relaxing 0%


medium 54%
slow 36%
fast 9%

Plot- or character-driven?

Character: 96% | A mix: 1% | Plot: 1%

Strong character development?

Yes: 45% | It's complicated: 38% | No: 14% | N/A: 0%

Loveable characters?

It's complicated: 59% | No: 20% | Yes: 18% | N/A: 0%

Diverse cast of characters?

Yes: 82% | It's complicated: 12% | No: 4%

Flaws of characters a main focus?

Yes: 91% | It's complicated: 6% | No: 1% | N/A: 0%

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