When a national nonprofit labels Big Burr, Kansas, "the most homophobic town in the U.S." and sends in a task force of queer volunteers to live there in an attempt to win over the community, no one is truly prepared for what will ensue.
Laskey composes elegant portraits of each character, drawing us into intimate worlds that pulse with light and sound, only to swiftly guide our attention elsewhere; if that character reappears at all, it will be in a minor role. Some voices are even more compelling than others, but over all Laskey inhabits each of their perspectives credibly, exhibiting a vocal range that grants the reader a panoramic view of the proceedings ... In Laskey’s artful hands this moral is delivered with such conviction and grace that it somehow feels fresh, and, thus, essential.
Each point of view rings true and distinct from the rest; none remain central to the storyline. Rather, the book’s narrative feels as diffuse—yet coherent—as droplets of water scattered in the air after rain. Once we step back and watch the light shining through, the larger picture springs into vivid, poignant focus ... Laskey does not shy away from more complex, sometimes troubling moments and themes. She does not demand a perfect bow-wrapped resolution to any of the characters’ stories, save perhaps for one ... Laskey’s choice to operate in vignettes allows her writing talent to shine and makes for an enjoyable, leisurely read. The book does not feel rushed in its pacing and the central storyline unfolds with the inevitability of true life. The moments that stay with us, like one character’s description of the silence of a deer hunt, or an elderly woman’s meditation upon memory and gardening, may come from any quarter. No character is wholly sympathetic ... Under the Rainbow will ring true for a wide audience, regardless of gender expression and sexuality, for its wry humor and universal truths.
The fish-out-of-water conceit isn’t wholly unrealistic: More LGBTQ people have been moving to red states in recent years, thanks to a lower cost of living and increased legal protections. Still, Laskey, a Los Angeles-based writer with an MFA from the University of New Mexico, makes great demands on our capacity to suspend disbelief ... If it feels far-fetched, it’s also refreshing ... And it doesn’t come at the end of a neat, tidy arc ... a fragmentary structure works, underscoring how emotional change happens in individual and complicated ways ... Laskey’s vision of inclusion is all-encompassing. It’s also alert to how halting and surprising the path can be.