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Book Review: Sighs Too Deep for Words

Book Review:  Sighs Too Deep for Words Cover Image

S. A. Smith

October 18, 2022

Sighs Too Deep for Words is the second William Jack Sibley novel I've read in less than a month. Like Here We Go Loop De Loop, this darkly humorous contemporary drama is about people learning and embracing who they are. The main character, Lester Briggs, is a 27-year-old ex-con out on early release for the non-violent crime of stealing a church. (Though the incident gets only a few sentences, an entire novel could--and probably should--be written about that.) The only thing he regrets leaving behind in prison is Little Ray, his cell mate and “lover of convenience.” He hitchhikes to coastal, small-town Rockport, Texas, hoping to meet Laurel Jeannette Yancey, his prison pen pal whom he’s come to love.

This is where the first plot twist comes in. Laurel Jeannette is actually Father Phillip Yancey, a buttoned-up, closeted gay Episcopalian priest, who, after becoming involved in prison ministry, corresponded with Lester in the guise of a woman and when pressed for a picture, sent one of his sister, Luz, a down-on-her-love-luck lesbian. To quote the blurb, Lester has “fallen in love physically with a woman who doesn’t know he exists and mentally with a man he doesn’t know how to love.”

In lesser hands, the plot could’ve been a disaster, but Jack Sibley makes the most improbable situations totally believable, and he treats his imperfect characters with such perfect love and respect I couldn’t help rooting for them.

Lester meets and is befriended by a plethora of people who have problems and heartaches of their own. Nevertheless, they happily insert themselves into the ex-con’s life, and he begins to figure out who he is. Every character Lester meets, other than a young wife and mom hoping for some good-time company while her husband is working on an offshore drilling rig, has a profound positive influence on Lester's life. And each of these characters become integral to the plot.

If that’s not enough, there’s this. After having imported pigeon for dinner one night, Luz revolts against  her brother’s gourmet meals and Beaujolais and demands Frito pie for dinner the next day. Here's how that went:

“Philip winced, but only slightly. ‘All right. That’s Fritos, cheese, chili—'

[Luz] ‘Wolf Brand, in a can, with beans. Grated rat cheese only. Half a chopped-up yellow onion on top. Period.’”

That, dear readers, is how you make Frito pie and is only one example of the quirky humor with heart found throughout this novel. It's worth at least four perfect seashells!