It was profoundly strange to read a dystopian romance set in a United States after a climate change and racism driven civil war while my city and state were going through a climate driven disaster exacerbated by racist policies. If it had been written by another author, I probably would have put it aside as too close to home, but Skye Kilaen was writes with such kindness that it was a balm to read about her characters working together as a community to survive.
Set in a small town outside of Denver, The Home I Find With You centers on Van, who took over as the head of town security when his wife died fighting off a group of thieves, and Clark, newly arrived in town looking for a fresh start after an accident. Climate change and the aftermath of the war are making the town a hard place to survive. Everyone has trauma, whether it’s from the war or from the hardships in a post war landscape. The town operates on cooperation within and also with other local towns. As a new resident, Clark wants to make himself valuable and be considered reliable. He also wants Van, but just for fun. Van has partnered with Hadas, but their relationship is open. The romance between Van and Clark is a slow burn, though they do have a couple of unsatisfying sexual encounters. Everyone here is traumatized, whether from the war or life after. It makes sense that they would be emotionally guarded. Kilaen puts the ingredients for emotional intimacy in the crock pot and lets them slowly come together into a lovely polycule relationship between Clark, Van and Hadas.
The idea of war or some other apocalypse returning us to a small community, quasi-agrarian/hunter-gatherer life has been a popular prompt for story telling. Very often it’s based in regressive ideas about the virtues of a simple life and a return to “traditional” gender roles. Kilaen turns all that on it’s head and instead tells a story of people who are scarred by violence and seek to heal with kindness. There is no room for traditional gender roles when everyone is trying to survive, and at least one character is nonbinary. As with Kilaen’s other books, her characters feel like solid people who would probably stop to help you change your tire on a cold, rainy night.
The Home I Find With You is out March 3. I received an advance reader copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.