Author: Amy Feltman
Published: February 5, 2019
Publisher: Grand Central
Where I picked up my book: Library
Key Words: Romance, LGBTQ+, family dynamics
My Rating: 3.5
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
In WILLA & HESPER, two young women fall in love. When they fall apart, they unwittingly take the same path to heal from their breakup, seeking answers in the lands of their ancestors. From Tbilisi, Georgia to the war sites of Germany, they discover what can break and what can mend when you look to the past to understand your present.
Willa’s darkness enters Hesper’s light late one night in Brooklyn. Theirs is a whirlwind romance until Willa starts to know Hesper too well, to crawl into her hidden spaces, and Hesper shuts her out. She runs, following her fractured family back to her grandfather’s hometown of Tbilisi, Georgia, looking for the origin story that he is no longer able to tell. But once in Tbilisi, cracks appear in her grandfather’s history-and a massive flood is heading toward Georgia, threatening any hope for repair.
Meanwhile, heartbroken Willa is desperate to leave New York that she joins a group trip for Jewish twentysomethings to visit Holocaust sites in Germany and Poland, hoping to override her emotional state. When it proves to be more fraught than home, she must come to terms with her past-the ancestral past, her romantic past, and the past that can lead her forward.
Told from alternating perspectives, and ending in the shadow of Trump’s presidency, WILLA & HESPER is a deeply moving, cerebral, and timely debut.
This book had a lot going on and it took me a few days to sort through all of my feelings before I could actually write anything down. First things first, I was ecstatic to find a book that depicts a lesbian relationship without a man involved as a part of the main plot AND, that doesn’t revolve the character’s coming out story. I’m not against a good coming out story (we all had to come out at one point or another and it’s usually not easy, has a story behind it and deserves to be told). BUT…I’m quite a bit past that point in my life and it’s so refreshing to just see queer characters living their authentic lives like the rest of society (fictional or not) does.
My second thought was that this book is a journey and in order to enjoy it, you need to be down for the ride. When I first heard about this book, I thought I was going to read about a pretty straight forward (no pun intended) lesbian romance, and although romance is not a genre I usually lean toward, I was in for a lesbian romance because we don’t see those very often in literature. So I picked it up and oof…I was happily mistaken. The romance that takes place is a relatively short part of the story and seems to only be there to act as the catalyst. It’s really there for each woman to individually explore themselves, their place in life, their faith, their family, their goals, aspirations and their fears. It’s really a sweeping observation of what it’s like to be a queer in your 20’s, just trying to figure out all the things in life. It’s quite a journey and as long as you’re in for that, you’ll love this book.
If I’m being honest, my main caveat with this book was that it was was sometimes hard to decipher between the two main characters, Willa and Hesper. I say this with caution, because I despise when people tell my wife and I that we look alike (we literally don’t look alike at all). Or they say that can’t tell the difference between out voices on the phone. Or they ask us if we are sisters. Here’s a little PSA-don’t do that to lesbian couples. Like, ever. It’s degrading and rude. BUT…this is fiction, so I will say this with a grain of salt. It’s not because it is two women that I couldn’t tell decipher these characters (although I will say that writing lesbian relationships-this is another challenge that we face). But…giving these characters more unique, and individual voices would have been a bit better for me as a reader and lead to a lot less confusion overall. I found myself flipping back quite a bit to figure out which one was which.
Besides that little caveat, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am really looking forward to seeing what else Feltman has to offer us! <<Please more lesbian literature. Please>>.