Summary Review: One of the strangest stories I can remember reading in a while, which proves that an entire town can keep a secret.
Dexter Krispin arrived in the small Kansas town of Schicksal with one thing on his mind: finishing his doctoral thesis. He hoped getting away from his hectic life in Pittsburgh would allow him to concentrate on the long overdue paper and to forget about his last lover.
Life-long Schicksal resident, Noah Stoffel, has managed to keep his sexuality a secret. Yet, after one look at the dark-haired newcomer, he knows his life in the sleepy town will never be the same.
But more than Noah’s desire for privacy stands between him and Dexter. For years, the residents of Schicksal have been hiding a horrific secret, one that takes Dexter mere days to uncover and expose…a secret that could destroy-or heal-them all.
Noah was a virgin, mainly because there was no other young gay men in the Town of Schicksal which boasted a population of 231 residents. He was a farmer but barely eking out a living since his father passed away 6 years ago because everything seemed to go wrong, either poor crops or a tractor that wouldn’t work, or something else. Added to everything he had to worry about, he looked after his mother who had been very sick for four years and didn’t care what was going on on the farm. She hardly lifted a finger to help, even with feeding the chickens, so all the work was left to Noah.
Enter Dexter, the city slicker from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who was visiting his aunt Cora, the Town’s Mayor. Cora had invited him up to help with an investigation, and as Dexter was not working while he completed his doctoral thesis he had the time to devote to the investigation. Dex appeared to be interested in Noah which he couldn’t understand since the man was good looking, sophisticated, well off, and dressed in the height of fashion compared to Noah in his threadbare clothes. Noah was attracted to the newcomer which wasn’t surprising since there weren’t any young, unattached, men in Schicksal and strangely Dexter seemed to like him as well, but what would a city man find attractive in a country bumpkin who had no prospects of a better life? As they got to know each other better Dexter formed the opinion that Noah was terrified of his mother but he couldn’t figure out why, and as their friendship progressed Dexter realized that Noah was extraordinarly fearful of death and cemetaries and wouldn’t walk through a cemetary even in the daytime.
Although Dexter was still recovering from his last one night stand that ended up with the young man becoming a stalker, which freaked him out, he pursued Noah and suggested that they spend an evening in Dodge, the closest town, since Noah had a few errands to run anyway. Noah was very concerned about leaving his mother on her own since he had only ever been away from home for a few months when he was in college 4 years ago but had to return to run the farm; he put his life on hold to take care of his mother. He had not come out to his mother because he knew that she would never understand his sexual orientation due to her strict code of behaviour and religious fanaticism, but Dexter used his charm and the fact that Noah really wanted to be with him to persuade him that his mother would be OK on her own for just one night.
That night was everything that Noah had dreamed of for his first time with a man and both he and Dexter realized that they were falling in love. The only dark spot was the headaches that seemed to be a constant in Noah’s life.
Unfortunately reality smacked them in the face when they returned. Noah couldn’t wake up his mother and thought that by going away for the night he had killed her. Panic stricken, he called Dexter and asked him to get help but Dex was met with a strange silence when he requested that the doctor provide emergency assistance, and no one else came forward to help Noah. What was wrong with the residents of the town who seemed to care about Noah?
This is one of the strangest books that I have read in a while and I had to re-read it to get the full extent of the story. An entire town kept a secret that they didn’t share with Dexter until it was almost too late. Even those he trusted such as Ruby, owner of Ruby’s Diner who loved Noah, had been keeping the secret along with everyone else. The characterizations were good especially the two protagonists and a few of the minor characters such as Ruby and Cora, even Mr. Halleran at the salvage yard and his fierce Rottweiler, but I had a difficult time with the plot. I understood it but I just didn’t ‘get’ it that an entire town of people would do what they did even though they were well intentioned. While everyone wanted to help Noah they didn’t seem to know what to do and chose the line of least resistance which ended up harming him instead. I also didn’t understand what happened to the original mystery that brought Dexter to the town at his aunt Cora’s request – that seemed to have disappeared.
If you’re looking for a book set in a very small town but with residents that are atypical, you might find Saving Noah of interest.