Willa & Hesper

Amy Feltman

Book - 2019

For fans of What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell and The Futures by Anna Pitoniak, a soul-piercing debut that explores the intertwining of past and present, queerness, and coming of age in uncertain times. 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 o...f 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 so 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

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Subjects
Genres
Bildungsromans
Published
New York : Grand Central Publishing 2019.
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
293 pages ; 22 cm
ISBN
9781538712542
1538712547
Main Author
Amy Feltman (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

The heroines of this gentle and sweeping love story, Willa and Hesper, are MFA candidates in a fiction-writing program at Columbia. Willa is an only child from a New Jersey suburb immediately outside New York City, and Hesper is the dramatic youngest child of her Marin County–based family. Willa and Hesper's relationship begins during an extremely sensitive time, immediately after Willa is sexually assaulted outside her Jewish temple in the suburbs. Their union is fast and intense, lasting only seven months but leaving both women irrevocably changed. In the wake of their partnership, Willa travels to Europe to tour concentration camps and connect with the trauma of her ancestors. Hesper goes with her family to the Republic of Georgia to get closer to their own elderly relatives. From Willa and Hesper, readers may see how relationships between twentysomethings, even when brief, have the potential to inspire unimaginable self-discovery. Set immediately before and after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Feltman's novel is as titillating and tense as the experience of young adult love itself. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

In this thoughtful and fascinating debut from Feltman, two students in Columbia's MFA program in 2016 spiral into a romance—and just as quickly spiral out. When Hesper strikes up a conversation with Willa in a diner in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, their attraction is undeniable; Hesper is enchanting and adventurous, and Willa is endearingly attentive. The two begin to tentatively navigate the unfamiliar territory of dating women (the first such experience for both of them), narrating alternating chapters. But Willa's intensity soon gets under Hesper's skin; she seems to love Hesper too much, and Hesper can't shake the certainty she will push Willa away. Both reeling from a break-up conversation that the reader never fully sees, Willa and Hesper fly from their pain: Hesper travels to Tbilisi, Georgia, on a quest to learn about her grandfather's past; Willa's roommate signs her up for an "Inspiring Jewish Survivor Trip!" to Germany and, to her own surprise, Willa goes. Feltman slices directly to the core of heartbreak's ugliest moments: the temptation to fall back into patterns, to keep running from intimacy and risks. She evocatively captures the tension between aching to move on and not give up, and how the shattering of one relationship fractures others. Feltman stays away from happy ending conventions and skillfully weaves glimmers of hope and healing throughout, making for a keenly perceptive novel. (Feb.) Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A story told from alternating perspectives traces the whirlwind romance of two women who are separated when one returns to her family's home in Tbilisi, Georgia, to uncover her grandfather's story and the other heartbrokenly embarks on a Holocaust tour.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A story told from alternating perspectives traces the whirlwind romance of two women who are separated when one returns home to uncover her grandfather's story and the other heartbrokenly embarks on a Holocaust tour. A first novel. 25,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

For fans of What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell and The Futures by Anna Pitoniak, a soul-piercing debut that explores the intertwining of past and present, queerness, and coming of age in uncertain times. 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 so 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