I think maybe 3.5 stars? (Why am I so absurdly concerned about stars? It's a good book--smart, well-written, moving, enjoyable. I didn't love it, but I do without qualification recommend it. I hope it sells a bunch of copies; I look forward to reading Hannaham's next novel.)
Gary Gray seems tailor-made for a great number of belittling narrative conventions. He's a chubby, devout, poor, Southern, Black, gay man struggling to reconcile his varied desires, and I bet you can imagine any number of authorial tacks: heartwarming redemption and self-discovery, painful debasement and tragedy (perhaps followed by heartwarming etc.), ironic yokel-baiting mockery of the world around him (perhaps eager to exploit his foolishness, too). Yet the novel surprises, skillfully juggling a variety of tones in a generally realistic picaresque. As a character Gary breathes (rather heavily, at times), and I found myself not just caught up in event but compelled by his voice. It's tricky to conceive a character so beset by cliche-bait and yet weave a believable depiction of his sincere struggles. Hannaham is brilliant at capturing and conveying Gary's consciousness without ever giving him too much or too little credit.
But it might be the novel's intent focus on Gary which kept me a bit distant -- as a reader I tend to gravitate toward concepts more than characters. Chalk my lack of "love" up to personal failing rather than the novel's limitations.