Eight years ago, Ondro Smrek fled Slovakia and the bigotry that drove his first lover to take his own life. The demons proved impossible to outrun, though, and now, desperate for somewhere to belong, Ondro is returning to start over. During a layover in Basel, Switzerland, he meets Jamie, an American living in Scotland who is as brilliant as he is beautiful.
Jaded Ondro never would have guessed he could fall in love during a brief layover—until now. When he is put in a position to offer Jamie comfort without hope of recompense, Ondro doesn’t hesitate. Soon, he catches a glimpse of the home he longs for. But with their separation looming, confessing his feelings would only lead to pain and humiliation. Life has taught Ondro not to hope, but then, he never believed in love at first sight either….
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To be honest, I had to read this book twice AND sleep on it before I could write the review. It’s very European, focusing mostly on Slovakia. And it opens with a note about the LGBT rights in Slovakia and tells a bit about referendum.
Now, this book may be short, but for me, it was one of the most impactful books I’ve read. It does help that a lot of things described – hate speech preceding the referendum, Alliance for Family, and many others, were very similar to my country. We had a referendum in 2015, and we had a group called ‘It’s about the children’. And what’s more, the name of the country? I admit, a few times I almost read Slovenia instead of Slovakia due to all the similarities.
I felt sorry for Ondro, going back to that hell of hate speech and prejudice. But the layover in Basel goes and changes his plans. I loved Ondro and Jamie’s first meeting and all the subsequent events that occurred. When Jamie gets ill (or just worse than he was before), Ondro doesn’t hesitate, but is immediately prepared to help him.
The characters were nicely introduced, I connected with them really quickly, which is necessary at a book of this length. It felt natural, and not at all forced, how they came together and what came to be. And their friends? They were amazing too!
It is also so nice to read a great story that isn’t happening in the US or UK. It is actually the reason I gave this book a read – I asked for recommendations of books happening in Europe and a friend recommended me Roe’s books. This was my first book by him, and it was a great introduction into his works, despite being so painful occasionally.
In short, it’s a short book that repeatedly angered me, and saddened me, but it also gave me hope for the future in some way. I am having troubles finding the correct words to be extremely honest, as this book felt very personal in many ways.
I would, and have, recommended it very much, especially if one really wants to read a book happening in Europe (non-UK), or…well, anyone! 🙂