Title: The Rebuliding Year
Author: Kaje Harper
Narrator: Gomez Pugh
Run Time: 9 hours and 44 minutes
At a Glance: This is a satisfyingly lengthy audiobook peopled by awesome characters building an unexpected relationship against a backdrop of family drama and surprise suspense.
Reviewed By: Cassie
Blurb: It took losing nearly everything to discover what they can’t live without.
A few excruciating minutes pinned under a burning beam cost Ryan Ward his job as a firefighter, the easy camaraderie of his coworkers, his current girlfriend, and damn near cost him his left leg. Giving up, though, wasn’t an option. He fought and won the battle back to health, over a painful year. Now, choosing a new profession, going back to school, and renting a room from the college groundskeeper should be simple.
Until he realizes he’s falling in love with his housemate and things take a turn for the complicated.
John Barrett knows about loss. After moving twice to stay in touch with his kids, he could only watch as his ex-wife whisked them away to California. Offering Ryan a room seems better than rattling around his empty house alone. But as casual friendship moves to something more, and emotions heat up, the big old house feels like tight quarters.
It’s nothing they can’t learn to navigate, until life adds in unhappy teen kids, difficult family members, and mysterious deaths on campus. Rebuilding will be far from easy, even for two guys willing to open their minds, and hearts.
Review: This book was a surprise to me. It sort of fell into my lap, and I hadn’t quite absorbed the blurb when I started into it, so I really had no expecations of the characters or story going in. I was ecstatically surpised by the ensuing journey.
The story is basically gay for you, in the sense that neither of the men had been in, or even considered, a relationship with another man up to this point in their lives. I’m not usually into that trope, but it really worked for me in this book. The characters are older—Ryan early 30s and John upper 30s—and they both have bigger things to be concerned with than burning all their angst on being suddenly in a gay relationship. Yes, there are growing pains, but Kaje Harper does a really excellent job of only giving them as much play as they deserve and not belaboring inner monologue drama. Ryan and John are fully realized and sympathetic characters outside of their relationship, and their romance is more interesting for being played out against their external plotlines. Harper works the slow burn hard, dancing the MCs nearer and nearer before finally sparking them off each other. The Rebuilding Year is possibly the best written GFY arc that I’ve read in the last couple years.
The secondary characters (largely, the MCs’ family members) are skillfully rendered. At times heartbreaking and infuriating, at others completely sympathetic. Harper manages to begin to evolve some seemingly irredeemably vile folks into, well, understandably vile folks. Some of that arc continues into book two of the series, so only the ground work is present in The Rebuilding Year. But I do love me some complicated “bad guys”, and those are present (in spades) here.
There is an element of—Mystery? Suspense? There are really only breadcrumbs in the first three quarters of the book, pointing to something being not quite right. But as a reader, you end up being sort of consumed with the relationship and family drama just like the two main characters, so that last quarter of the book is a pretty startling shock of adrenaline for everyone involved. I felt a bit like I jumped into a different book at the end. Not in a bad way at all, but the big climactic action sequence is so well written, and so different than anything up to that point, that it’s pretty shocking. As a whole, I actually think it’s a tactic that really works for the story. It kind of catapults the reader into the same emotional state as the MCs. It’s a very thrilling bit of writing.
Gomez Pugh is one of my favorite narrators. He’s excellent at differentiating character voices, and his dialogue is always well performed. He’s also just plain pleasant to listen to. I’m never worried when I see his name on a book, and The Rebuilding Year is another 5 star performance from him.
I really enjoyed this book, and I was thrilled to see it clock in at 9 hours and 44 minutes. That’s a lot of time to spend with characters I enjoyed and a narrator who absolutely does them justice. I’m also thrilled to (re-?)discover Kaje Harper. I don’t know where I’ve been, but I don’t have nearly enough of her books. And if all this hasn’t convinced you to give this book a try, how about this? As soon as I finished The Rebuilding Year, I one-clicked the ebook of the next book in the series and read it in a single sitting the very next day. If it comes to audio, I’ll be buying that format, too. So there’s my vote of confidence.
You can buy The Rebuilding Year here: