What Belongs to You

What Belongs to You

A Novel

Book - 2016 | First edition.
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Long-listed for the 2016 National Book Award in fiction

On an unseasonably warm autumn day, an American teacher enters a public bathroom beneath Sofia's National Palace of Culture. There he meets Mitko, a charismatic young hustler, and pays him for sex. He returns to Mitko again and again over the next few months, drawn by hunger and loneliness and risk, and finds himself ensnared in a relationship in which lust leads to mutual predation, and tenderness can transform into violence. As he struggles to reconcile his longing with the anguish it creates, he's forced to grapple with his own fraught history, the world of his southern childhood where to be queer was to be a pariah. There are unnerving similarities between his past and the foreign country he finds himself in, a country whose geography and griefs he discovers as he learns more of Mitko's own narrative, his private history of illness, exploitation, and want.

What Belongs to You is a stunning debut novel of desire and its consequences. With lyric intensity and startling eroticism, Garth Greenwell has created an indelible story about the ways in which our pasts and cultures, our scars and shames can shape who we are and determine how we love.

Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780374288228
Branch Call Number: FIC Green
Characteristics: 194 pages ; 22 cm


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DBRL_Jeremiah Mar 29, 2018

Greenwell is also a published poet, and in this phenomenal novel, his poetic nimbleness is on display—on every page. I love this book, and I've read it a couple times now. It's a queer novel about desire and loneliness, exclusion and satisfaction. The main character meets a male prostitute and slides into an ambiguous love affair: it's a sexy, sputtering novel, and the syntax is just a doubtful as the protagonist.

Mar 12, 2018

In a couple of instances Greenwell seems to expatiate on situations that need less elaboration, e.g., the message about his dying and in many respects dysfunctional father and his long walk in his "polished shoes" across muddy embankments as he sorts things out. But his description of the train journey to Plovdiv with his mother and of the little boy whose behavior reminded Greenwell of a young Mitko (near the end of the book) and the last visit by Mitko to the apartment of the American teacher and his sympathetic response to the hopelessness of the young hustler's predicament were immensely moving to me.

Having been in Bulgaria a couple times, I became aware that to signal a negative one shakes your head up and down and left to right to signal something positive. This is never really clearly spelled out, it seems to me.

HMWLibrary2017 Jul 14, 2017

First of all, I have spent a great deal of time in Bulgaria, and Greenwell's description rings absolutely true to me - decrepit but enduring. This book captures perfectly what it is to be an "average" American in over his head in a foreign land. There's a permeating sense of dislocation and curiosity that is reflected through a lens of erotic longing for the "other."

Nov 19, 2016

A very haunting story. Something many gay men can probably relate to since they have experienced it in one way or another. I have and so the story touched me.

May 17, 2016

The inside jacket blurb reprint above also included "stunning debut with lyric intensity and startling eroticism." There's no actual dialogue but indirect speech in long sentences and very long paragraphs with discursive descriptions. The author (is this a memoir?) never reveals his identity and refers to his same sex Portuguese lover as just "R". The only person we know by name is Mitko the young charismatic Bulgarian hustler of whom the author becomes infatuated. I found him to be potentially the most interesting character of the book but his background story is never explored.

PimaLib_LGBTQ Apr 14, 2016

For 2016 I made a commitment to read more fiction (I am a non-fiction sort-a-guy) and I was pleasantly surprised with Garth Greenwell’s first novel, “What Belongs to You.” His book offers a slice of the complexity of our lives and how we create relationships with others, often with people vastly different from our own circumstances, with consequences one has little control over. Mr. Greenwell is an accomplished poet and his prose reflects that. He gave life to his characters and the landscape they inhabit in a clear and truthful way. “What Belongs to You” is a refreshing work of Gay Male literature. I look forward to reading more from Garth Greenwell.
Rich D.


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cals_readers Mar 31, 2016

He stood there for a while as he drank, looking out over the street where I live, which seems never to have been given a name. None of the smaller streets in Mladost have names, though in the center the nation’s whole history, its victories and defeats, the many indignities and small prides of a small country, play out in the names of its avenues and squares. Here in Mladost, it’s the blokove, the huge towers, that anchor one in space, each with its own number individually marked on city maps.

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