A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review:Don’t Plan to Stay by Kaje Harper

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Adam Lindberg’s best friend, Donnie Kagan, was sent to prison when he was eighteen after police ruled he was at fault in a collision that killed an old man when the vehicles met in an intersection.  Donnie had been drinking and though his blood alcohol was only .04, since he was underage and the other driver was killed, it was considered a major crime.  Adam was seriously hurt and couldn’t testify on his behalf, nor could Adam’s older brother, Nate, who was in the front seat but knocked unconscious.  Now, six years later, Donnie heads home to Tallbridge to check on Adam and his family—a family that had treated him as one of them until the accident.  He doesn’t plan to stay, but he can’t resist seeing Adam to finally say goodbye.

Adam is shocked when he sees Donnie since Donnie never responded to any of Adam’s letters and Adam didn’t even realize Donnie was finally out of prison.  Not wanting to talk about his time in prison is one thing, but not wanting to open up and talk about anything at all is another.  But Adam finally convinces the reticent man to help out at the family’s Christmas store and Donnie reluctantly agrees. Things have changed while he’s been gone, and Adam’s mom passed away in the last year, leaving he and his father and brother bereft and finding it difficult to cope with the holiday season.  The dog that adopts Donnie when he’s out wandering his old neighborhood is the key to helping Adam’s father finally come out of his depression, and Adam’s consistently positive and forgiving attitude toward Donnie goes a long way toward helping Donnie finally open up. 

Eventually, old scars are healed, new paths are forged, and Donnie accepts that he’s not going to be heading to warmer climates. Instead, he’s going to follow his heart and stay with Adam after the Christmas break. The two seem to have been destined to be together from the time they were children, so it’s very possible they’ll be together for a lot longer now. 

I enjoyed this story, but I’m sad to say I didn’t like it as much as I’d hoped.  I think that’s because Donnie is a tough character to get to know and like, though that’s understandable since he spent so much time in prison, and he doesn’t give away a lot of personal information or open up until late in the story. Much of what we learn about who he is comes from flashbacks and from his actions in the present—everything from rescuing an abused dog to working for his former boyfriend’s family business for little to no pay, and then helping out a friend who saved him from a beating while in prison.

It’s one of those books that kept me coming back, but not one that I avidly looked forward to each time I was forced by RL to stop for a while.  One of my favorite parts of the story is a subplot about converting a prison tattoo from carved initials to an open cage with a caterpillar emerging. Without giving further detail on that, I will say that I loved the comparison and enjoyed meeting the young man who emerged from the stoic ex-con who first showed up in town and became the open, happy young man who finally expressed his love for Adam and found comfort in its return. 

I most certainly recommend this as a story of healing and hope.

~~ Cover art by Karrie Jax Cover Design using a photo from Dan Skinner Photography features two young men, one draped across the other’s chest, holding hands as they sleep.   It’s a very sweet representation of the MCs. 

Sales Link:  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 110 pages
Published December 8th 2017 by Kaje Harper
Edition LanguageEnglish setting North Dakota (United States)

By Scattered Thoughts

At over 50, I am ruled by my terriers, my gardens, and my projects. A knack for grubbing about in the woods, making mud pies, and tending to the injured worms, bugs, and occasional bird and turtle growing up eventually led me to working for the Parks. I was a park Naturalist for over 20 years, and observing Nature and her cycles still occupy my hours. From the arrival of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in the Spring to the first call of the Snow Geese heading south in the Fall, I am entranced by the seasons. For more about me see my bio on my blog.

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