Rating: 3.75 stars
Buy Link: Amazon
Dan lives in a secluded cabin in the middle of the woods where he enjoys his life as a reclusive writer, all alone since his partner Sean died. One day, there’s a knock on his door and a young man named Jonathan, beaten and near death, asks to be let in. Dan spends the next few days nursing Jonathan back to health and hearing the story of his abandonment in the woods by a father who couldn’t accept his being gay and a mother who would not stand up to him.
The more Dan learns about Jonathan, the more he starts to care for him and becomes fiercely protective of him. Jonathan was abused throughout his whole life and never felt love from any source. Very quickly, the two start having feelings for each other beyond just one man trying to help another recover from severe lifelong trauma. They both have demons to battle, though. Jonathan’s not sure if he could recognize love if he ever felt it; Dan still mourns his lover, Sean. There’s also the matter of their age-difference, and while Sean has had to grow up quickly, he’s still just short of 18, and Dan is concerned about a future together for two people at very different points in their lives.
Hirschi has a unique storytelling style in Jonathan’s Hope. While the plot is not complicated, the way it is presented to the reader felt more to me like a fable than your typical style of romance. Some things, like the first few days the men are together, seem to pass at a leisurely pace. Jonathan seems to be thawing from the outside in, finally seeing the potential that life has to offer for the first time. He starts to experience joy and happiness. It’s a type of awakening. Then, at other times in the novel, years pass by quickly, usually in explanation for the situation in which Jonathan finds himself. Those parts of the novel take on a more fairy-tale, dreamlike quality. The pacing is a little disorienting, but I did enjoy the feeling that, while this book takes place within a contemporary world, it has a timeless quality.
There is a lot of sadness as well. Life has not been easy for Jonathan, nor has it been easy for any of the people who have been in his life. There’s a lot of anger, bigotry, injustice, ill-fated timing, and despair. As the title suggests, there is hope, but be warned, there is a lot to slog through to get to that point. Just when you think things are on track, Hirschi will slam you with another surprising obstacle. This is not a criticism, though I’ll admit that a couple of times I felt the tragedy, especially one involving Jonathan, seemed a little out of the blue.
I think this book has loads of potential, but I had a very difficult time getting past the mechanics of it, which had quite a few problems. While it was told in 3rd person POV, there is a significant amount of head jumping, which just doesn’t work for me. On one page, you see the perspective of Jonathan, Dan, and the dog. And even, at one point, there was a shift from 3rd person to 1st person POV from one sentence to the next. These are issues that would’ve never gotten past a professional editor, so I hope the author will seek editing help with his next book.
In addition, there were some rather overused tropes in this book. The instalove, for one. Dan seems to fall in love rather quickly — it only took him 30 seconds to fall in love with Sean, maybe 90 seconds to fall in love with Jonathan. People tended to be caricatures more than complex individuals. They all fit into either the really evil or really good category, without much in between. I think this may have been one reason why the book overall felt less realistic and more like a fairy tale. The situations and people just did not fit in with the complex world we live in.
I would still recommend this book to people who like quite a lot of angst with their romance, and Jonathan and Dan will pull at your heartstrings. I hope Hirschi will continue to write and publish his works, and would encourage him to get some editing help his wonderful stories reach their full potential.