Saturday, August 13, 2011

Lessons by Kim Pritekel

Publisher:                P. D. Publishing

There are certain stories that are repeated in literature, told again and again by different writers. What is it about one version that makes it stand out? Makes it more than the pat retelling of something that the reader is already familiar with? Since it can't be the story itself, it has to be the skill of the writer in drawing the reader in and causing her to want to know how this version ends. Lessons by Kim Pritekel is such a book.

Chase Marin is just beginning college, more of an escape from her family than a real interest in education. Many things are changing in Chase's life and she's feeling very uncomfortable trying to sort out what is causing them and, more importantly, how to react to them. Things seem to get a little easier when she discovers that the graduate student who is teaching one of her classes is an old friend from when she was much younger. 

Dagny Robertson is a few years older than Chase and was once her babysitter. She always seemed to understand the younger Chase when her family didn't and they reestablish their friendship based on the same kind of understanding for each other. As Chase moves through the process of establishing more mature relationships with her friends and family, Dagny becomes the stabilizer she can always turn to. The reader is allowed to follow them as they help each other through difficult situations and as they simply meet at the coffee shop to spend some time together. As time passes though, Chase comes to realize that her feelings for Dagny go beyond the hero worship she felt as a child and the friendship she feels as an adult. She's concerned about this because she isn't sure how Dagny perceives the relationship, so she has to hide her feelings. This is refreshing because the friendship is important enough to Chase that she's willing to suppress the desire for anything else to keep from threatening it.  As the story continues to unfold, the challenge for both Chase and Dagny will become to decide which is more important, the friendship which has become so crucial for both of them or a relationship that neither is certain she's ready for.

What makes Pritekel's book stand out is that she takes the time to develop her characters. They don't rush through a few pages making instant discoveries and proclaiming undying love for each other. More than once the story takes a turn that leaves its outcome in suspense.  The reader also gets to know these two women and their friends. They have lives that involve other people besides the two of them. 

Chase particularly is surrounded by a cast of well-developed characters. There is the childhood best friend who seems to be on a path of self destruction no matter what Chase does; the extremely religious roommate who appears to have nothing in common with Chase, but opens a new world of experiences to her and ultimately understands what is going on with Chase before she does herself; and the members of the band Chase performs with who give her a dimension beyond the relationship with Dagny. Dagny is not a monotone character either, but richly crafted for depth. The story is told from Chase's perspective though, so she is the more complete character.

Again, though, what makes this book interesting is the time the reader can take to get to know the characters. Anyone who has read many romances already has an idea of where the story is heading. It's how the book gets there that makes this one appealing. By the end of the book, Chase and Dagny are people you wish you really did know. Lessons is well worth reading in order to feel that experience.

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