Title: Jonathan’s Hope
Author: Hans M. Hirschi
Published: July 17th 2013
Publisher: Yaree AB (first published July 16th 2013)
Rating: 4 stars
Abandoned to freeze to death in a winter forest by his father because of his homosexuality, Jonathan desperately struggles to survive, until he accidentally stumbles upon Dan, who owns a cabin in the woods.
Dan has been fighting his own demons since the death of his lover Sean. Having retreated from big city life, he is content to live in solitude, but he never counted on meeting Jonathan.
Given the dire circumstances, Dan must set his own needs aside to help Jonathan reclaim his life, but he soon finds that the ghosts of both their pasts won’t die so easily.
This is my first Hans Hirschi book. I chose Jonathan’s Hope as the first of his books to read because when I met the author at GRL and we were discussing my need for happy endings, this one sounded like it would be a fit for me. I am happy to say it was, but I will also say there is quite a bit of angst.
We first meet Dan who is struggling with his grief on the day that marks the one-year anniversary since his life partner, Sean, died. Dan has chosen to live in the cabin that they had remodeled together at the edge of the Great Forest. It holds many memories of Sean and is close to where Dan has buried his ashes. Withdrawn from the world as much as he can be, he does not expect to hear a knock on his door on a cold winter evening.
He opens the door to find a disheveled and obviously freezing, young man and invites him in without thinking. The young man’s name is Jonathan, and we find that his parents have abandoned him in the forest to die of exposure, because he was gay. As the story progresses, we learn that the abandonment is the least of the cruelties that Jonathan has suffered in his short seventeen years.
Jonathan brings out a protective instinct in Dan. He finds that he is drawn to him, but Jonathan is seventeen (turning eighteen in one week) and the fact that he is a minor and also thirteen years younger than Dan is an obstacle. Not to mention that he feels guilty for having these feelings because he is still grieving for Sean.
The author weaves the story with varying points of view: Jonathan’s, Dan’s, Dan’s dog Rascal (really fun way to give another perspective), Jonathan’s parents and other characters. It has an interesting writing style that changes within the story and between characters. There are things we as readers will know that the characters themselves will not. This was a different style for me but it worked and I enjoyed it.
There are many tragic events in this book: child and spousal abuse, violence, rape, and homophobia. These events touched so many lives in varied and devastating ways. It was difficult feeling sympathy for one of the perpetrators even though he had himself been a victim at one time
I must add that there are also moments of love, tenderness, passion and, above all, hope. I thought it was lovely how the author wrote the scene that gives us the title of the book. Very sweet. I typically like older man/younger man dynamics in a story and Dan, and Jonathan’s misgivings as the relationship developed were expected.
The author did promise a happy ending and he delivered, although the epilogue made me cry. Lovely, slightly bittersweet, but happy.