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Missed Connections: A Memoir in Letters Never Sent

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An entertaining and moving memoir about coming out, looking inwards, and the search for connection, inspired by the responses to a personal ad. In 1992, Brian Francis placed a personal ad in a local newspaper. He was a twenty-one-year-old university student, still very much in the closet, and looking for love. He received twenty-five responses, but there were thirteen lett An entertaining and moving memoir about coming out, looking inwards, and the search for connection, inspired by the responses to a personal ad. In 1992, Brian Francis placed a personal ad in a local newspaper. He was a twenty-one-year-old university student, still very much in the closet, and looking for love. He received twenty-five responses, but there were thirteen letters that went unanswered and spent years tucked away, forgotten, inside a cardboard box. Now, nearly thirty years later, and at a much different stage in his life, Brian has written replies to those letters. Using the letters as a springboard to reflect on all that has changed for him as a gay man over the past three decades, Brian's responses cover a range of topics, including body image, aging, desire, the price of secrecy, and the courage it takes to be unapologetically yourself. Missed Connections is an open-hearted, irreverent, often hilarious, and always bracingly honest examination of the pieces of our past we hold close -- and all that we lose along the way. It is also a profoundly affecting meditation on how Brian's generation, the queer people who emerged following the generation hit hardest by AIDS, were able to step out from the shadows and into the light. In an age when the promise of love is just a tap or swipe away, this extraordinary memoir reminds us that our yearning for connection and self-acceptance is timeless.


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An entertaining and moving memoir about coming out, looking inwards, and the search for connection, inspired by the responses to a personal ad. In 1992, Brian Francis placed a personal ad in a local newspaper. He was a twenty-one-year-old university student, still very much in the closet, and looking for love. He received twenty-five responses, but there were thirteen lett An entertaining and moving memoir about coming out, looking inwards, and the search for connection, inspired by the responses to a personal ad. In 1992, Brian Francis placed a personal ad in a local newspaper. He was a twenty-one-year-old university student, still very much in the closet, and looking for love. He received twenty-five responses, but there were thirteen letters that went unanswered and spent years tucked away, forgotten, inside a cardboard box. Now, nearly thirty years later, and at a much different stage in his life, Brian has written replies to those letters. Using the letters as a springboard to reflect on all that has changed for him as a gay man over the past three decades, Brian's responses cover a range of topics, including body image, aging, desire, the price of secrecy, and the courage it takes to be unapologetically yourself. Missed Connections is an open-hearted, irreverent, often hilarious, and always bracingly honest examination of the pieces of our past we hold close -- and all that we lose along the way. It is also a profoundly affecting meditation on how Brian's generation, the queer people who emerged following the generation hit hardest by AIDS, were able to step out from the shadows and into the light. In an age when the promise of love is just a tap or swipe away, this extraordinary memoir reminds us that our yearning for connection and self-acceptance is timeless.

30 review for Missed Connections: A Memoir in Letters Never Sent

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tim McGregor

    The raw honesty in Missed Connections is, by turns hilarious and heartbreaking, but always, always breathtakingly courageous. This memoir about a misguided search for love through the personal ads is, without question, my pick for best non-fiction of the year.

  2. 5 out of 5

    smalltownbookmom

    A really personal memoir from Canadian writer Brian Francis about his experiences coming of age as a young fat small town Ontario boy. I really enjoyed the unusual format of this memoir, told in a series of fictional letters he writes to the men who responded to his personal ad from 1992. This was an eye-opening look at what life was like for gay men before grinder and when so few felt free to be open and trying to make connections was far from easy. Highly recommended and great on audio read by A really personal memoir from Canadian writer Brian Francis about his experiences coming of age as a young fat small town Ontario boy. I really enjoyed the unusual format of this memoir, told in a series of fictional letters he writes to the men who responded to his personal ad from 1992. This was an eye-opening look at what life was like for gay men before grinder and when so few felt free to be open and trying to make connections was far from easy. Highly recommended and great on audio read by the author!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sean Loughran

    Missed Connections is a gorgeously written, heartwarming book with sprinklings of comedy throughout. It's charming, engaging, and deeply moving. The book opened my eyes to what coming out and being gay was like in the 80s and early 90s, right around when I was born. When I came out, it was to a different world. Albeit, it was still a world that didn't accept me for being me. As a gay male in my 20s, I found the book so incredibly relatable. The first letter to Dwayne resonated with me a lot. In Missed Connections is a gorgeously written, heartwarming book with sprinklings of comedy throughout. It's charming, engaging, and deeply moving. The book opened my eyes to what coming out and being gay was like in the 80s and early 90s, right around when I was born. When I came out, it was to a different world. Albeit, it was still a world that didn't accept me for being me. As a gay male in my 20s, I found the book so incredibly relatable. The first letter to Dwayne resonated with me a lot. In it, Brian talks about his ongoing struggles with his weight, shape, and body image. As someone who has also struggled with weight and disordered eating for most of my life, this letter was not only relatable, but also deeply thought-provoking. One of the letters, to a teacher called Craig, moved me to tears. In it, Brian talks about having to conform in order to fit into the socially accepted norms in high school. Something I can relate all too well to. All in all, this book was a real pleasure to read. I stayed up late into the night, curled up on my sofa with a blanket, reading it. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the initial replies to Brian's newspaper ad, and his responses that followed thirty years later. Once I started this book, I couldn’t put it down. It was a compulsive read, and one that I’ll recommend to many of my friends who will also be able to relate. I adored this! Avocado Diaries

  4. 4 out of 5

    ❀ Susan G

    Missed Connections is a heartfelt memoir, written in response to a series of responses from a personal add that the writer published during university. He had saved 13 letters which he had not responded to in the 90's and has now responded to each including commentary about each letters, his reflections of that time and the challenges that he experienced as a young man (in the closet) and when he shared his real self with his family and friends. There are heartbreaking anecdotes of the author's f Missed Connections is a heartfelt memoir, written in response to a series of responses from a personal add that the writer published during university. He had saved 13 letters which he had not responded to in the 90's and has now responded to each including commentary about each letters, his reflections of that time and the challenges that he experienced as a young man (in the closet) and when he shared his real self with his family and friends. There are heartbreaking anecdotes of the author's feelings about his body, comments made by others and bullying but there is also also joy as he reflects on breaking the path for his nephew, his marriage and acceptance by himself and by others. Like in his book, Fruit (and being a similar age as the author), I enjoyed all of the 80's references, from the trips to the mall, shopping at Thrifty's and Woolco this is a book to read a letter at a time, taking a break between chapters to ponder and reflect. I think that it would read well in audio with the right reader.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Andrea W

    This is perhaps one of my favourite books I have read in a while. So beautifully and thoughtfully written, and a creative way to reflect back on one's life. I am grateful to the author for writing it. This is perhaps one of my favourite books I have read in a while. So beautifully and thoughtfully written, and a creative way to reflect back on one's life. I am grateful to the author for writing it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ellen McClure

    A solid 4 stars for a really interesting concept. The responses were honest, sometimes brutally so. And I am not ashamed to say, it made me cry. Also to really think about the positions we hold throughout our lifetimes. A quirky read with tons of heart.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Leig

    3.5 stars rounded up. Structuring a memoir around letters seemed like a wonderful idea, and a wonderful idea it was. In execution, it came off more like a series of essays, and I liked the book better when I took each of the 14 chapters as its own being rather than as contributing to a central narrative (though it did succeed as a central narrative in respects). Brian Francis is in his early 50s as he writes, reflecting on his life growing up as a gay man who came out in Canada in the 1990s. The 3.5 stars rounded up. Structuring a memoir around letters seemed like a wonderful idea, and a wonderful idea it was. In execution, it came off more like a series of essays, and I liked the book better when I took each of the 14 chapters as its own being rather than as contributing to a central narrative (though it did succeed as a central narrative in respects). Brian Francis is in his early 50s as he writes, reflecting on his life growing up as a gay man who came out in Canada in the 1990s. The thing I loved best about this memoir was the perspective it offered on the previous (to me) generation of queer society. The fact that the memoir is built around the author's placement of a coded personal ad in the newspaper already sets the stage for what's not familiar to my generation: we have apps, where you can filter by orientation. Brian had classifieds. The author reflects on these changes, particularly in an essay where he reflects on a reply sent to him by a retiree—Brian being a college student at the time—where Brian speculates on his own previous generation. The letter writer stood out by specifying he was HIV-negative; Brian reflects that, though HIV was very much a going concern in the '90s, there were more tools and awareness (in Canada) available by that time so that it felt like a different kind of threat than it would have been to the generation before. The author also reflects, attached to this, on how his gay nephew had something Brian himself didn't: an out gay uncle, a role model in the family. These generational musings were my favourite material in the memoir, in part because the memoir itself is arguably a testament to what was possible for Brian's generation that was much less possible for the generation before. That's what makes this memoir so valuable: these are our forebears. They laid the groundwork for us. Someday we will be forebears, too, and it'll be us passing on tales of our generation. I am glad to know and understand Canadian queer history better for having read this, and I'd recommend it to anyone who cares about same. That said, the book as a unit didn't always work for me. As mentioned, it worked better as essays than memoir in places. I enjoyed the hell out of the first and last thirds, and I especially enjoyed the last essay, which departed from the mold and gave us the author's two most important "gay" memories he wanted to instruct his younger self to look forward to. The middle of the book loses some of this momentum and energy, and—while reflection on the author's parents is understandable in a memoir—this sometimes felt navel-gazey in a way that didn't always feel relevant or very compelling to read. The way the essays didn't follow a single narrative timeline meant it took until getting to the end to feel like the puzzle pieces came together to form a picture, but the book ends on a wonderful hopeful note, and I won't soon forget what I learned from reading this. This relatively quick and easy read is well worth picking up. Thank you to NetGalley and McLelland & Stewart/Penguin Random House for the ARC.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    Interesting idea for a book and a good way to reflect on his life and the long-term effects of growing up gay in a small town.

  9. 5 out of 5

    BOOKarina (Karina)

    This was meh. I don't know what it is with me not enjoying books lately or with much difficulty. Once again expected more to come out of this and the writing, the storytelling of the memoir (not that there is a storyline but recount of events through letters if that makes sense) everything was just not for me. This is most like a case of "it's me not you" this book feels like an ex with whom things are just not meshing and you were getting along better when you knew less about each other if that m This was meh. I don't know what it is with me not enjoying books lately or with much difficulty. Once again expected more to come out of this and the writing, the storytelling of the memoir (not that there is a storyline but recount of events through letters if that makes sense) everything was just not for me. This is most like a case of "it's me not you" this book feels like an ex with whom things are just not meshing and you were getting along better when you knew less about each other if that makes sense. Anyhow, I don't want to spend time elaborating why this did not work, just don't have the energy and I believe people will do it justice, I don't want to make remarks about a memoir as it is someone's life. I have a hard time with non-fiction & since the writing was not for me this was a flop. A LOT of people loved it so, check their reviews and see if you would enjoy it, I personally did not vibe with it but that's a me thing and doesn't mean you won't ! 2.5/5 stars Bookarina PS: thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    This book is Brian Francis responding to letters that came in response to a personal add he had run in the newspaper about 25 years ago. He uses his response letters as a way to share his personal life experiences as a gay person. I loved this idea and thought it was a unique way to write a memoir. However, at time I found it worked better than others, that is sometimes the original letter fit well with his response letter, and sometimes not so well. That said, the experiences Brian writes about This book is Brian Francis responding to letters that came in response to a personal add he had run in the newspaper about 25 years ago. He uses his response letters as a way to share his personal life experiences as a gay person. I loved this idea and thought it was a unique way to write a memoir. However, at time I found it worked better than others, that is sometimes the original letter fit well with his response letter, and sometimes not so well. That said, the experiences Brian writes about are excellent and paint an honest picture. Brian grew up in Sarnia and went to university in London, Ontario, and is just a few years older than I am, so I found the references to both place and the lack of diversity in rural Southwestern Ontario he speaks about from his earlier years to resonate with me. I have read Brian's other books and I appreciated learning his personal story in this book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    kayley

    When I got this book I was hesitant, I rarely read non-fiction and for some reason felt that this was not written for me. I am 21 myself right now, and an openly lesbian student in Canada. I was surprised however at the depth I felt I related to the stories, the feelings. I found myself seeing parts of me reflected in the pages. It made me feel more human, more connected, more questioning about things to come and things that have happened. Of course I can't relate entirely or know exactly the ex When I got this book I was hesitant, I rarely read non-fiction and for some reason felt that this was not written for me. I am 21 myself right now, and an openly lesbian student in Canada. I was surprised however at the depth I felt I related to the stories, the feelings. I found myself seeing parts of me reflected in the pages. It made me feel more human, more connected, more questioning about things to come and things that have happened. Of course I can't relate entirely or know exactly the experiences Brian talks about but there is something nice in seeing someone else's stories laid bare, hearing them say things that you may not have had the courage to say, or simply admire their own introspection, the issues they bring up. For that I have to say I am impressed and grateful for Brian Francis writing this book and encourage others to read it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dar

    Francis (who hails from Sarnia ON and is the author of the celebrated YA novel Fruit) recalls posting a classified ad when he was a lonely 21-year-old, hoping to meet other young men for friendship and maybe love. He kept the letters he received in reply, but didn't answer them...until now, 30 years later, in this published form. Instead of imagining how he would have replied in 1992 at age 21, he writes from the point of view of his mature self. He muses about the letter writers, what they woul Francis (who hails from Sarnia ON and is the author of the celebrated YA novel Fruit) recalls posting a classified ad when he was a lonely 21-year-old, hoping to meet other young men for friendship and maybe love. He kept the letters he received in reply, but didn't answer them...until now, 30 years later, in this published form. Instead of imagining how he would have replied in 1992 at age 21, he writes from the point of view of his mature self. He muses about the letter writers, what they would have been like, and where their lives might have taken them. Along the way, he tells them about his own life and how it turned out. It ends up being a a memoir and a chronicle of gay life in Canada over the course of three decades. The tales are touching, heartbreaking, funny, inspiring and relatable.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Enid Wray

    Confession… I have a predilection for Brian Francis and his writing before I begin reading this… and this is every bit as delightful as his fiction. I laughed and I cried at his reflections on life, love and family. His reflections and recollections - in part based on journals from the time - explore the reality of growing up gay at a particular moment in time (as does his fiction). Open, honest and heartfelt the collection of letters digs deep as he shares his journey to understanding that he w Confession… I have a predilection for Brian Francis and his writing before I begin reading this… and this is every bit as delightful as his fiction. I laughed and I cried at his reflections on life, love and family. His reflections and recollections - in part based on journals from the time - explore the reality of growing up gay at a particular moment in time (as does his fiction). Open, honest and heartfelt the collection of letters digs deep as he shares his journey to understanding that he was not a ‘worthless freak’ (p100). The one thing I would love to know is whether or not he kept all of the letters received back then? I would be most interested in reading the rest of them, even if only collected as an appendix… no need to respond to all of them... 4.5

  14. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte

    I haven't read "Fruit" but I have had it recommended to me quite a few times. I'm happy to have been given the opportunity to read this book. I always love epistolary works, and what a beautiful way for this life to unfold on the pages of this book. Brian Francis writes a series of letters to replies to a personal ad he placed in his youth. His answers to the letters are three decades late. They run the gamut of emotions. This book is like a biography 30 years in the making. There is sadness, hum I haven't read "Fruit" but I have had it recommended to me quite a few times. I'm happy to have been given the opportunity to read this book. I always love epistolary works, and what a beautiful way for this life to unfold on the pages of this book. Brian Francis writes a series of letters to replies to a personal ad he placed in his youth. His answers to the letters are three decades late. They run the gamut of emotions. This book is like a biography 30 years in the making. There is sadness, humor and Francis also tells a bit of the history of the gay community. All of this is summed up in bite-sized letters that are heartfelt and beautiful. Loved this.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jen W

    Growing up in Ontario in the same era as the author and my desire to learn more about equity, diversity and inclusion is was what drew me to this book. Writing his story and the life lessons he’s learned along the way in a series of letters to 13 responses he never answered to his personal ad back in 1992 was ingenious. Each letter covered an array of topics and experiences Brian faced with honesty and exposed his deep rooted emotions about the fears and pains of growing up as a gay man in the 8 Growing up in Ontario in the same era as the author and my desire to learn more about equity, diversity and inclusion is was what drew me to this book. Writing his story and the life lessons he’s learned along the way in a series of letters to 13 responses he never answered to his personal ad back in 1992 was ingenious. Each letter covered an array of topics and experiences Brian faced with honesty and exposed his deep rooted emotions about the fears and pains of growing up as a gay man in the 80s and 90s. The last letter was my favourite of them all!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    I am a little younger than the author but this book resonated. Being out and proud is an accomplishment but the path can be lonely. The structure of the book is phenomenal and parts of it had me in tears. As a writer myself, the passages referring to the struggle to even decide if your story is worthy rang very true.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Cole

    A poignant piece that has left me contemplating past interactions and how they continue to shape who we are today. It’s cliche, but I laughed and cried. I wanted to embrace young Brian and applaud adult Brian. This memoir tugged at my heart, but in the most uplifting way.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Shannon Winstone

    A raw and honest book about a young gay man learning to accept himself throughout his life but through a creative twist of old letters from a personal ad in a newspaper. Brian digs deep on what it’s like to feel alone looking for love as a young gay man in the 90s.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jaclyn

    This is really sweet!

  20. 5 out of 5

    E MacIsaac

    Really good read! Very interesting Canadian LGBTQ story

  21. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    2.5*

  22. 4 out of 5

    Danielle Boucher

    DNF because he made fun of one of his missed connections' looks—the one that had a passion for modeling. Seemed poor taste to me and turned me off from the book completely. Just isn't my style. DNF because he made fun of one of his missed connections' looks—the one that had a passion for modeling. Seemed poor taste to me and turned me off from the book completely. Just isn't my style.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Better than other books I've read by the author, but still focuses so much on the negative and the self-loathing felt relentless. Not for me. A bit of humour or perspective would have helped. Better than other books I've read by the author, but still focuses so much on the negative and the self-loathing felt relentless. Not for me. A bit of humour or perspective would have helped.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Santarossa

  25. 5 out of 5

    Erin Nigh

  26. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Ruten

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tyler Richards

  28. 5 out of 5

    Leighton

  29. 4 out of 5

    Teresa

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sam Mooney

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