Doubting Thomas by Matthew Clark Davison


Doubting Thomas chronicles a challenging and disruptive year in the life of a young, gay teacher in the waning years of Obama’s America.


Thomas McGurrin is a fourth-grade teacher and openly gay man at a private primary school serving Portland, Oregon’s wealthy progressive elite when he’s falsely accused of inappropriately touching a male student. The accusation comes just as Thomas is thrust back into the center of his unusual family by his younger brother’s battle with cancer. Although cleared of the accusation, Thomas is forced to resign from a job he loves during a potentially life-changing family drama.

Davison’s novel explores the discrepancy between the progressive ideals and persistent negative stereotypes among the privileged regarding social status, race, and sexual orientation and the impact of that discrepancy on friendships and family relations.

By turns rueful, humorous, angry, and wise, Doubting Thomas marks the debut of an important writer.

Doubting Thomas moves compellingly and compassionately among races, genders, sexual identities, and other human conditions.  A novel of this depth and vigor, this liveliness, would be notable coming from any writer; the fact that it’s Matthew Clark Davison’s first is a clear indication of marvels yet to come.” —MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours

Doubting Thomas is a phenomenal gift; a complex and careful layering of the inherent intersectionality of personhood, and a testament to the transcendent possibilities of storytelling. Heart-wrenching and mending, Matthew Clark Davison proves in these pages that, in the hands of the right writer, a novel’s humanity and craft can amplify one another to matching exaltation. DOUBTING THOMAS reveals Davison as the preeminent among such writers, from whom the rest of us are lucky to learn.”—T KIRA MADDEN, author of Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls

“An electrifying debut. Doubting Thomas is one of those novels where you return to passages, again and again, to see exactly how the author pulled off such an ingenious sleight-of-hand. Matthew Clark Davison is a force to be reckoned with.” —ARMISTEAD MAUPIN

“In all my years of reading, I’ve never quite encountered a book like Doubting Thomas. What is seemingly a book about scandal and betrayal becomes, in Davison’s skilled hands, a prismatic view of one man’s grappling with the complexities of family, community, history, memory, and self. Doubting Thomas is nuanced, layered, detailed, and incredibly touching. In short, this is a fiercely complicated story, beautifully told.” —ZOELA SUMMERFIELD, author of Every Other Weekend

Doubting Thomas by Matthew Clark Davison is wonderfully insightful and tremendously generous of spirit. A book for our age in that it masterfully navigates the emotional terrain of real people with real affection for each other, who are trying their best to do the right thing for those they love. That they do this across differences of race, sexual orientation, class, and culture is a part of the book, of course, yet this isn’t some intellectual exercise. The book’s characters are terrifically alive and kicking, constantly surprising, dismaying, and delighting us.” —ALICE LAPLANTE, author of Turn of Mind

“From the shock of the first sentence, through heart-rending twists and shifts, right through to the end, Doubting Thomas is a compulsively readable, brilliantly assured novel. Matthew Clark Davison creates such indelible characters, you’ll miss them when you close the book.” —JUSTIN TORRES, author of We the Animals 

“How do you go on after one rough year, after the end of a relationship, an illness in the family, and a false accusation, which leads to multiple betrayals from the community that once nourished you? Matthew Clark Davison’s absorbing, electric Doubting Thomas knows that just when you think the losses are behind you, more are on the way, and yet some losses are entangled with unexpected offerings: a fresh way to see, a chance to be of purpose again, and an invitation to love. A searing, candid debut.” —PAUL LISICKY, author of Later: My Life at the Edge of the World

“What’s so enviable, so thrilling in Doubting Thomas is how deeply realized these characters are . . . not just Thomas but every character brims with rich detail, nuanced psyche, the beautiful paradoxes of soul and being that make us human.” —PATRICK EARL RYAN, author of the 2020 Flannery O’Connor Award-winning collection If We Were Electric

“A wrenching professional crisis becomes the occasion for a man to reckon with everything that made him who he is—the loves of his past, his family, the very job he’s in danger of losing. Is it possible to emerge from such a moment with hope and an open heart? The extremely talented Matthew Clark Davison offers an answer in the form of this very beautiful novel.” —ANN PACKER, author of The Dive From Clausen’s Pier

“Sharply probing . . . Thanks to the care Davison pays to his characters—each one a fully realized, thinking human in Thomas’s orbit—what could be an over-serving of tragedy is instead delivered with clarity and nuance. The result is a novel that manages to take on a number of the world’s traumas…using the personal travails of a gay man at the dusk of Obama’s America to probe at the nature of what it truly means to know oneself.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Matthew Clark Davison’s clear prose highlights Thomas’s external challenges and internal struggles. After his troubling experiences, redemption comes only when Thomas is able to acknowledge and honor his own truths . . . In the riveting novel Doubting Thomas, an ex-teacher learns about the dangers of masking who you are to appease others.” — Forward Reviews

“Davison weaves memories into moments with an organic flow . . . Everything about Doubting Thomas feels natural, from Thomas’ evolving reactions to his eclectic family that surrounds him, to his creeping fear . . . It’s about rebuilding after loss. Thomas’ new life gets more complex by degrees as he deals with family, friends, and the aftermath of accusation, in a world where no one is a hero or a villain.” —The Queer Review

“What happens when a gay male teacher is accused of molesting his male 4th-grade student by the boy’s parents? In Matthew Clark Davison’s debut novel . . . The real story, the real heat of the book is not the sensationalism of the accusation, but its effects on the entirety of the accused’s life, love, and family.” —Foglifter Magazine

“With a single lie, Thomas has lost a career that was more calling than job. [Davison writes] . . . lines like ‘The day smelled of beer, and cigarettes, and the first bloom of Jasmine;’ . . . beautifully atmospheric setting: ‘Her office sparkled. All glass and wood, surrounded by Country Day’s near-choking foliage, wet and green, the drops on the glass and the glass itself created tiny prisms that fractured light from the early morning sun;’. . . [and] lovingly drawn characters . . . this book isn’t all about the ills of society. In fact, it’s mostly about family and resilience, and love.” — Front Matter, Vermont College of Fine Arts

“. . . Doubting Thomas is an absorbing story of a gay man who finally learns to love . . .It is also a disturbing picture of the limits of the liberalism so many people pride themselves on having. Davison . . . has a poet’s gift for striking metaphors.” —New York Journal of Books

“With this important work, Davison achieves something of an anthem for . . . gay . . . Gen Xers as Edmund White and Alan Hollinghurst do . . . for baby boomers, and in that Doubting Thomas feels like it has a place of permanence in LGBTQ+ literature.” —Out In Print

“The prose in Davison’s novel is lucid, sensitive, and gorgeous as he weaves a story of evolving relationships, vacillating self-perception, and deeply entrenched hypocrisy.” —Adam Winograd, ZYZZYVA

“Complex, incredibly touching, painful at times, beautiful.” —Marieke du Pré, Goodreads

MATTHEW CLARK DAVISON is the creator of The Lab :: Writing Classes with MCD, and his textbook The Lab, Experiments in Writing Cross-Genre, co-authored by bestselling writer Alice LaPlante, will be published by W.W. Norton in 2022. His prose has been recently anthologized in Empty The Pews (Epiphany Publishing) and 580-Split; and published in or on GuernicaThe Atlantic MonthlyFoglifterLumina MagazineFourteen HillsPer Contra, Educe, and others; and has been recognized with a Creative Work Grant, (Inaugural Awardee/San Francisco State University), Cultural Equities Grant (San Francisco Arts Commission), Clark Gross Award for a Novel-in-Progress, and a Stonewall Alumni Award.

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