*** DEBUG END ***

Out of the Woods, by Luke Turner

03 May 2019

Paul Edmondson reads a memoir of bisexuality

THIS is an important and moving memoir about the struggles of being bisexual. At the heart of it is Epping Forest, which, for Luke Turner, becomes an ever-shifting symbol of sexuality and selfhood, of longing and loss, of his past and his present, and, ultimately, of his own, integrated identity. His brave, often poetic prose encompasses the pastoral, the confessional, and the erotic.

Patriarchy shows us how to be masculine, feminine, and heterosexual, but not how to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Growing up in a loving and Christian environment, with a Methodist-minister father and a conservative, Brethren mother (the book is dedicated to them), Turner, nevertheless, felt confused and insecure about his inner life and sexual feelings.

The natural world of the Yorkshire Moors and Epping Forest (“there are no morals to nature”) comes to reflect his restless desire for men and women. He hides himself in furtive and promiscuous sex, suffers overwhelming guilt, and develops an almost inescapable sexual addiction.

Turner is inspired by the forest and its many associations: from its roots in the Latin “foris”, or “forestis”, meaning “that which is outside”, to its being a “spiritually radical” place for his parents, as well as a place of ancestral mystery, escape, retreat, sexual encounter, and death. But he also finds the “forest” in the nightclubs of London and Berlin, music, pornography, his dates via the apps Tinder and Grindr, the breakdown of a long-term relationship, and through being sexually abused when he was 14 (a haunting episode of conflicted wanting and regret).

Throughout, Turner’s sense of God never leaves him, “a curious spark that comes from beyond the human”, helping him to piece together who he is, and fashioning a faith that, finally, finds a way out of the woods, and gives shape to his troubled experience.

The Revd Dr Paul Edmondson is Head of Research and Knowledge and Director of the Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.


Out of the Woods
Luke Turner
Weidenfeld & Nicolson £16.99
Church Times Bookshop £15.30

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

6-7 September 2022
Preaching as Pilgrimage conference
From the College of Preachers.

27-28 September 2022
humbler church Bigger God conference
The HeartEdge Conference in Manchester includes the Theology Slam Live Final.

More events

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four* articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)

*Until the end of June: we’re doubling the number of free articles to eight, to celebrate the publication of our Platinum Jubilee double issue.