Rating: 5 stars
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David Harper was a straight A student who, for the most part, took life in stride. Although he desperately missed his father, who had died when David was still young, he and his mother shared a good relationship. However, her job had them moving house with more frequency than David liked and so, as By the Creek opens, we find David wrestling with yet another pending address change and a less than happy outlook on life.
To make maters worse, this move will take them to a remote area where they will live side by side with an Amish community. For those unfamiliar with their lifestyle, the Amish shun all modern conveniences, even electricity, and some also have a healthy prejudice against any who don’t adhere to their beliefs. They refer to them as “the English” and avoid having even the briefest of conversations with them.
David drops into this world with a thump and along the way discovers a new friend…an Amish boy his age named Benjamin. They meet when David stumbles upon a swimming hole in the creek, just through the woods behind his house—the same place Ben is allowed to come swim after he has done his chores. The must hide their friendship from Ben’s father for he is forbidden to have anything to do with “the English.” And so as weeks and then months pass by, David realizes that the feelings he has for Ben extend far beyond the regular bounds of friendship and teeter dangerously into that scary place…love.
Much to David’s joy, Benjamin, while naïve and innocent, is also falling head over heels in love. But for Ben, loving another man could mean the end to his life as he knows it. His father rules his life with an iron fist and Benjamin would do well to obey or suffer the consequences of shunning, his entire family and community turned against him—as if he had died—never to interact with him again. It is against this backdrop of hopeless loss that the two boy’s affections deepen and grow.
Geoff Laughton is new to the world of Young Adult m/m fiction and I must say, I am thrilled he has arrived! By the Creek is a coming out story, a coming of age story, a love story, and one of brokenness and healing. It is, simply put, exquisite. Having grown up in an area so very similar to the landscape that the author portrays, I found myself enjoying the rich tapestry that Laughton paints with his descriptive passages and deft handling of the Amish culture. There is sincerity to this author’s writing—a delicate balance between the beautifully written prose passages and the in-depth and rich characterizations that leaves this reader wanting more and more.
David and Benjamin, along with the secondary characters of parents and friends, in particular the so very wise Lynn, come alive on the page. You feel their woundedness, their joy, their love for each other and yes, in the case of Benjamin’s father, their prejudice. You live this story through them and you come away slightly breathless at the panorama of emotions that play out across the pages of this novel.
I want to encourage you to try By the Creek by Geoff Laughton, to not hesitate because it is YA and therefore possibly too light a story. This is no bit of fluff, by any means. By the Creek is a full-bodied story with deep, emotional moments and rich characters that will leap into your heart and find a place there to call home. It is a five star read and I highly recommend it to you.