Rating: 4.25 stars
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It’s been years since Ondro left Slovakia. The climate was oppressive and his former lover took his own life. Ondro has spent his time as an airline steward, but that isn’t fulfilling and after Ondro quits, he’s headed back to Slovakia. However, Ondro isn’t fully settled with going back. Sure, his best friend is there, and his family is also there, but their relationship is strained, and Ondro is looking for something or someone to belong to.
Jamie is American, but has been living in Scotland. While on a layover in an airport in Switzerland, the men meet and Ondro is captivated at once. Ondro tries to get Jamie’s attention, but Jamie is less interested until a hotel bar has them sharing drinks and then the entire evening. In that moment, Ondro sees a glimpse of something that he could have with Jamie, but who falls in love in an instant? When Jamie unexpectedly needs assistance, Ondro is almost too delighted to be there for him as it’s been some time since Ondro has felt needed. The men only have a few days together and then they are headed to different countries and confessing his feelings is too much for Ondro. But if he doesn’t, Jamie may fly out of his life for good.
The majority of this novella takes place in six days, but that isn’t an issue at all as the author sets a perfect pace to tell the story of Ondro and Jamie. The book is told through Ondro’s POV and he would most likely admit that he’s not the easiest guy to warm up to. He’s jaded and disillusioned and desensitized and he’s almost resigned to be going back to Slovakia. He wants to have a destination and while Slovakia is not the safest place for him, it’s what he knows.
We learn a little less about Jamie. Well, we are told about him and we see him through Ondro’s eyes, but Ondro’s personality certainly takes over, yet he looks at Jamie with such awe and tenderness. Jamie is hesitant to spend the night with Ondro; he’s not into one night stands, but something about the man calls to him.
The book is broken into chapters by each day that they men have known each other. It’s a fascinating way to have these men come together in forced proximity set about by circumstances. When Jamie needs help, Ondro is almost reluctantly relieved to be needed. The book tackles some political issues to illustrate what life has been like for Ondro growing up in Slovakia as a gay man, how it has shaped who he is, and what he could possibly face if he goes back. Yet, buried underneath, Ondro has hope. He hopes to love someone and be loved back, although his lack of self-esteem wants to tell him that he’s not worthy.
Horvat’s writing is clear and descriptive as the landscapes of faraway lands come to life through the characters. The author is able to transport the reader to a distant location while keeping the relationship the focus. There is a complete arc to the story that gets accomplished in a shorter number of pages and it was impressive for being both a novella and a debut book. I enjoyed the writing style and the author made me believe in their ever after. The Layover offers a new author with a well-written book that details the characters and focuses on the relationship and I will certainly look forward to future works.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.