|Vital Ties||Karen Kringle||Spinsters Ink||1992|
In her rural Wisconsin community in the 1950s, 20-year-old Clare Lewis’s determination to own her own farm is ridiculed as beyond a woman’s abilities. No bank will grant her a loan, and her father plans to leave the family dairy farm to her mediocre brother Harry. Unexpectedly, Clare’s uncle lends her the money, and she buys a farm directly across from that of Lee Collins, the area’s only other woman farmer. As the two women become friends, Clare realizes that she and Lee are sexually attracted to each other. Frightened of her feelings, Clare marries George Hansen. For 14 years, Lee and Clare remain distant. Then a double tragedy strikes: George dies in an accident, and Clare learns that her brother Marsh is gay and is dying of AIDS. She turns to Lee for emotional support and ultimately comes to terms with her true feelings for her. Although this first novel carries a positive message about homosexual relationships, the story and the writing are simplistic. Most of the sympathetic characters are homosexual, and the rest tend to be crudely homophobic. This is a fast read that seems intended for people who are coming to terms with their sexual identity.