Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Luke Lafontaine survived the past year by not thinking about the father he lost, the dairy farm he couldn’t save from bankruptcy, or his way of life that vanished with the rap of an auctioneer’s hammer. Cleaning up city folks’ trash at the Minnesota State Fair is just another dead-end job. But at the Fair, surrounded by a celebration of farm life, ambitions he’d given up on and buried deep start to revive. And seeing Mason Bell in the parade—gorgeous, gay, out-of-his-league Mason—stirs other buried dreams.
Mason left his hometown for college in Minneapolis without looking back. Student life is fun, classes are great, gay guys are easy to find, but it’s all a bit superficial. He’s at the State Fair parade route with his band when he realizes a scruffy maintenance worker is Luke, his secret high school crush. Luke should be safely home working on his dad’s farm, not picking up litter. Mason wishes he hadn’t fallen out of touch. He’s an optimist, though, and it’s never too late for second chances. Now he just has to convince Luke.
I wasn’t entirely prepared for portions of this story. And I should have been by the description and the author’s talent for conveying pain and loss. Still…
I live in a county that used to be almost entirely agricultural, horse farms, sweeping forests, orchards and fields of corn and grain. Now mostly mini mansions or townhomes/condos as far as you can see depending on where you live in the county. That you had a choice of a farm on your license plate was highly ironic given how fast the farms were being sold and plowed under. But what we weren’t seeing was the emotional cost on the other end. Kaje Harper puts a face to that loss. And it’s devastating.
That Kaje Harper now delivers in heart wrenching detail. If for no other reason to buy this book, it’s for the portrait of what the loss of a legacy, a family, a person’s foundation does to one young man. It will hit you in the gut. And we don’t even go through the worst of it with him. That’s already been done. By the time we meet Luke Lafontaine, he’s survived the loss of his dad to cancer, the sale of his family house and farm, including livestock he himself raised, to auction, and been homeless. No, now he’s through that, but just barely.
But all through this story, how that has all impacted Luke, in small ways and large, will return. And it will be shattering. It will also be a reminder that it’s happening to kids and families all over the nation with little media coverage. It will make you weep for Luke, for all those he represents, and for the farmers that no one seems to be speaking for anymore. Remember Farm Aid anyone? Kaje Harper gets this so incredibly, harshly right. We feel the pain, as we should, of the struggle to stay afloat in this economy. And how fragile the bar is on keeping the farm or losing it.
Anyhow. Combine Luke with a young man named Mason, eyeliner, clarinet, college going Mason (I love Mason) and you have such a wonderful endearing romance and relationship. The dynamics between them was sweet and supportive. It went both ways as Mason was used to guys being embarrassed by his love of lip gloss and liner. It felt so real, painfully so as they worked their way towards a future together.
I will remember this book for quite a while. I’ll remember the trials and the joys that Luke went through, his “Anne” (no spoilers, but ‘sniffles”), and the fact that a Christmas story for me sometimes has a title called Fair Isn’t Life by Kaje Harper. Really, I just loved this book. I think you will too. I highly recommend it.
Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht. I really like this cover, right down to the dairy cows. Great job.
ebook, 148 pages
Expected publication: November 16th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
Edition Language English