Title: Sole Support
Author: Kaje Harper
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: contemporary m/m romance
Length: Plus Novel (390 pdf pages)
Rating: 4.75 out of 5 rating stars
A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: A very much character-driven story, quiet, poignant and beautiful.
The Blurb: He can find a use for his lover’s hands…except when he needs help the most.
Kellen is short on cash—at least until his first novel starts to sell—but he has plenty of friends. None of them, unfortunately, share his love of books. For that he turns to IM chats with Mike from his online book group.
Though he manages to coax the shy, socially inept pathologist into a real-time meeting, Kellen has no intention of letting his new friend become more than a casual lover. Shaky finances and ailing mother aside, self-sufficiency is Kellen’s prime directive.
Mike considers himself a nerd of the highest order—short, bespectacled, prone to blurting out the wrong thing at the worst possible time. Meeting Kellen face to face is the biggest risk of his life, and he wonders if they’ll get more body parts together than just their faces.
First meeting leads to first date—first everything for Mike—and soon Kellen’s faced with breaking his just-friends-with-benefits rule. Yet as his elderly mother wanders deeper into senility, Kellen wonders if it’s better to lean on Mike rather than fall.
Warning: Contains an emotional love story between a too-proud-for-his-own-good writer with allergy to the L-word, and a painfully shy scientist who takes his sisters’ nagging to “get out there” literally. Oh, and an adorable stray cat.
First of all, this is a quiet book. It’s a slow-paced, silent tale about two men’s journey toward each other and to themselves. But this is exactly what makes this story so powerful–it doesn’t need to rely on action, noise or speed to capture the reader’s interest. It’s moving, depressing in parts yet optimistic in others, it’s honest, sweet, funny and heartbreakingly sad just like life itself.
Particularly when it comes to the struggles Kellen has to cope with in his day to day life. When we first meet him, he’s an outgoing guy; not quite a party animal, but he likes to go out with his friends. He’s close to forty, an author who just self-published his first novel, and even though he may not have a lot of money until his book starts to really sell, he gets by.
That is, until he realizes that his mother isn’t the person she used to be. Her mind is detoriating, and Kellen finds himself compelled to gradually leave his own life behind in order to become her caretaker. While this is hard enough in and of itself, it’s even harder for Kellen, given his mother’s personality–and not lastly, his own, since he is every bit as proud, fiercely independent and loath to ask for help as his mother is.
I found this part really wonderfully done. Anybody who ever had to deal with a person who suffered from dementia of any kind will be able to relate to what happened to Kellen’s mother–the slow, gradual, unstoppable downward spiral. First goes memory, then learned conventions, then instincts until nothing remains but a husk of a person. The person affected may stop noticing the process after a while, but the caretaker doesn’t. In this book, neither the slow detoriation of Kellen’s mother nor Kellen’s own growing despair and suffering were glossed over in any way; and yet the whole issue was handled with dignity and respect. And above all this, whatever Kellen’s mother did or how Kellen reacted, their refusal to accept help, let alone ask for it, were firmly based on their respective personalities and history. Perfectly crafted and heartbreakingly sad to watch. Kellen really needed to hit rock bottom, needed to almost break under the strain before he realized there’s no shame in taking the hand that reaches out to him.
Mike’s hand, that is; and even if I found Kellen the better-drawn and the more impressive of the two, it’s Mike who grew on me most, he was just such a wonderful guy. Not that I didn’t have my problems with him–first and foremost with how very shy and solitary he is.[spoiler name=spoiler] A thirty-seven-year old virgin? In this day and age? I’m not saying those couldn’t exist, but I really had a problem wrapping my head around that fact, however pimply, insecure, prone to attacks of sweating and tongue-tied someoneused to be in his teens and twens. Particularly with the way Mike was shown interacting with his co-workers, his sister, her husband and their (wonderful!) kids. However, the virginity thing otherwise fit the way his personality was drawn, it was, if not probable, so at least possible, and this is why I put it under a spoiler tag. Others may not have a problem with it.[/spoiler]
However, Mike coming out of his shell–or rather, Kellen coaxing him out of it–was so sweet to watch. My heart went out to Mike and the way he kept expecting the inevitable–having his heart broken– and practically analyzed his way there with clinical distance while at the same time he couldn’t help falling for Kellen, which eventually led to the expected result. But he came out stronger afterward, not broken–the change in his personality was remarkable and yet there was no change at all. Mike was always this reliable, generous, selfless person, but it took Kellen to make Mike recognize himself, and Kellen specifically, not just anybody. For once Mike came into his own, their roles reversed, and it was Mike who made Kellen open up, who drew him out. I couldn’t nelp cheering them on–they were just so perfect for each other.
Oh, yes, and the cat really is fantastic.