Candace Camp is an author that I used to read when I was a teenager, nicking books from my mom’s special cupboard. I have vague but positive memories of her work, so when I saw that some of the books she published in the 80s were out for Kindle, I thought I’d give one a try.
This book was originally published in 1984, and what struck me in particular was how much of a statement it made on the subject of privilege, something that I personally have really only begun to really think about in any depth and with any genuine understanding in the past year or so. The male protagonist of The Rainbow Season is Luke Turner, a man who grew up poor with an alcoholic father and who spent 5 years in prison after being falsely accused of rape. At the beginning of the book, Luke is sullen, defensive and accustomed to being scorned and rejected. He comes to the farm owned by the family of the female protagonist, Sarah McGowan, asking for a job. Sarah’s father agrees to hire him as a farm hand, arguing over the protests of his wife and son-in-law that Luke’s only crime is being born poor, and pointing out that the son-in-law, had he grown up in Luke’s circumstances, could easily have ended up in similar straits.
Luke justifies McGowan père’s faith in him by working hard and earning the family’s trust, and gradually he becomes less closed off and more confident in his own self-worth. This emotional journey is the first 50% or so of the book. When Sarah’s parents are killed in a bridge collapse, Luke and Sarah decide to marry so she can remain on her family’s farm. The development of their relationship and Luke’s continued journey to transcend his past makes up the book’s second half. There are no surprises here, no twists in the plot. Instead it is a sweet, sensitively portrayed story of two (very) young people –he’s 23 she’s 25– as they fall in love and grow fully into adulthood.
There is unfortunately one aspect of this book that I really disliked, and that is the slut-shaming of the woman Luke was accused of raping. On several occasions, Sarah declares that Luke couldn’t possibly be guilty because the girl in question was so ‘loose’ that there would be no need to rape her. It is suggested that the girl became pregnant and her father beat her until she told him who the baby’s father was, and she provided Luke’s name knowing that the town’s opinion of him was so low that she could claim he raped her and they would believe it. This is presented as further evidence of the unfair treatment Luke received; yet while he certainly was not treated fairly, there is no sympathy or understanding for this abused young woman who found herself in an impossible situation. Viewed alongside the book’s main themes concerning privilege and redemption, this attitude is particularly jarring and unpleasant.
Aside from this one flaw –which could be fixed with a bit of editing– The Rainbow Season is an interesting story with appealing characters and a sweet romance. Four stars.