Where “The Family We’re Born With” is a short story, “The Family We Make” is a full length novel. And I need to thank Kaje Harper for this; I am glad she allowed me to spend some quality time with Sam, Rick, Travis and all the other characters.
This coming-of-age story has it all; drama, sweet romance, humour, passionate love, honesty, struggle, and… a spitting llama.
Kaje has shown incredible integrity in both this book and its predecessor. She tackles serious issues such as bigotry, bullying, youth homelessness, HIV, and AIDS; and she does so with great dignity and respect.
Family is so much more than the blood that ties certain people together; it is acceptance, respect, having each other’s back, support, and love. Family is there when times are good and easy, family is there when times are bad and hard. And it can be entirely of your own making, as Rick and Travis find out.
Rick and Travis, eighteen and twenty respectively, know what it is like to have to hide who they really are. Rick refuses to do so any longer and is out and proud. Travis was out, sort of, at college but he returns to the closet when he has to move back to his parent’s house. In love with Rick, Travis finally decides to come out to his parents… Although they do not kick him out, or even scream at him, Travis’ parents worry more about their friends and neighbours who attend the same church. He leaves his parents and moves in with Rick who lives with his older brother Sam and Sam’s boss, Jeff.
It is difficult to imagine your baby brother having a serious relationship or an active sex life, even if he is eighteen. But Sam’s acceptance of Rick and Travis is heart-warming. And, if Sam struggles, Jeff is always there to cast light on the issue. Life isn’t perfect, or easy, but they make the best of it, together, as family.
Like the first book, “The Family We Make” has taken me on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. And now, if you don’t mind, I have to go pester Kaje Harper to hurry up with the third instalment of this series. (I’m holding everything crossed that Rick and Travis will get married; they deserve to broadcast their love for each other.)
At seventeen, Rick Albright left his home, his parents and even his old name, rather than pretend to be straight. But being on his own was hard. When his big brother Sam found him, and insisted on giving him a place to stay, he didn’t resist too long. Living with Sam is better than fighting just to survive, but it’s not easy to find his balance in a simple, small-town life, after his time on the streets.
Travis Brinkerhoff finally managed to come out in college, his second year anyway. It was the one bright side to losing his baseball scholarship and jock status. But without money for tuition, second year came to an abrupt end. He’s back in his small Minnesota hometown, and back in the closet. Travis feels like he’s trying to fit into a life he’s outgrown. If he’s going to survive, he has to figure out a way to be his own man, maybe even have his own man, without losing the family he loves.
When he left the Marines, Sam Albright wanted nothing more than to find his missing younger brother. Mission accomplished. Now he’s got an independent, possibly traumatized, openly gay young man on his hands, a girlfriend in a war zone overseas, and parents he has to lie to in order to keep the peace. Keeping it all together won’t be easy, but Sam has never backed away from a challenge.