A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: A beautiful, romantic story about healing and finding one’s place in life.
The Blurb: Taking the road less travelled may lead you home.Eco-house builder Jascha doesn’t think twice about taking in stray animals. Stray people? This would be a first. But there’s something about the stranded young man—who’s carrying nothing in his car but a hidden gun—that warns Jascha not to leave him alone.
In the days that follow, Peter gets more of a crash course in the hippie lifestyle—natural food, meditation, yoga—than he can handle. But every time he begins to relax around his new friend, their spark of attraction twists him back into a ball of nerves.
Jascha tells himself it’s a mistake to get involved with a man whose gaydar is seriously broken. In spite of everything, love happens. The only question is if love is enough to save both their lonely souls.
Contains an eco-friendly, dreadlocked hippy, strange tofu scrambles and a bathroom you’ll never want to leave. Readers may experience the desire to move to the desert, build a “green” home and change the world. Or at the very least, an urge to help Jascha and Peter dry off after one very hot bath scene.
The Review: A firm believer in ecological sustainability, Jascha lives in harmony with himself, with nature and the kindred spirits in his commune. But beneath his dreadlocked, laid-back hippie surface there are darker things, hidden so deep that he can pretend they weren’t there most of the time. For one, there are the specters of his past, bad choices he made in his youth that still haunt him even though he prefers to think he’s long over and done with them. And then, there’s the fact that someone who gives so freely and generously of himself as Jascha does is an easy prey to predators of any kind, particularly when it comes to matters of the heart. Jasha had his heart broken more than once in the past, the last time being so recent that the wound still hurts, and he’s so lonely that his soul aches. But heartbreak and loneliness don’t fit into the perfect Zen image he has of himself. So he screens his heart with fortifications as thick as Fort Knox’s, eats his healthy, ecologically sensibly produced food, drinks a lot of beer (it’s organic beer, after all) and puts his work before each and everything. It takes another lost soul to break through his walls–but it takes him almost too long to realize that love just happens, unapologetically and without setting conditions and even to him.
Peter couldn’t be farther away from living in harmony with himself, let alone his environment. It isn’t so much that he hates his job or his apartment, it’s in fact more like the realities of his life are slowly, inevitably killing his joy of life, leaving him burnt-out, depressed and unsociable (he even blocks the gap a the bottom of his apartment door with a rolled-up towel to keep out the smells and sounds of humanity). The fact that he thinks himself a freak for being gay doesn’t help either. By the time Jascha find him in the desert, Peter has reached a point where nothing makes sense anymore and he’s ready to put an end to it all, knowing nobody’s going to miss him if he doesn’t come back to work after his holiday.
But Jascha refuses to be as incurious about Peter as all the other people in Peter’s life have been so far. When Jascha looks at him, Peter feels seen, as if he really, actually mattered–a feeling so strange and unfamiliar that it frightens him. But even a temporary onslaught of panic can’t undo what started building between him and Jascha– tentative trust, barely admitted physical attraction and finally, all the more powerful for the fact that it sneaked up on them both, something that is strong enough to be called love.
But just when things start to look hopefully for Jascha and Peter, reality strikes, and Jascha is called away on a humanitarian aid assignment. It’s not being left behind, but the reasons for that which throw Peter deeper into despair than he ever was before. But once he hits rock bottom, what will he do? And is this really the end for him and Jascha?
From the first sentence onward, I felt drawn into the story. The setting in an eco-house building commune was unusual and fresh, and I learned a lot about eco-house building, hydrological cycles, and indoor farming without ever feeling hit over the head with facts. Not to mention the commune’s desert environment, which also added to the strong sense of place. Moreover, it’s just the kind of place where I can see someone like Jascha thrive quite happily, barely aware of his emotional void since that is balanced by the certainty of doing the right thing. It’s also just the kind of environment that wouldcompletely throw someone like Peter, a place where Jascha’s pure joie de vivre would seize him by the neck and give him a shake good enough to turn his life upside down.
Peter is a wonderful realistic character (so is Jascha, by the way, but he’s so exotic that he’s in a class of his own). But Peter is you and me and anybody who has ever carried the weight of the world on his shoulders without any kind of idea how to ease out from under it. His issues, the problems that drive him into depression are of the everyday kind that usually evokes comments like, such is life, buddy, if you can’t suck it up, make a change. Thing is, a depressed person can’t do anything with good advice like it. It takes professional help to break free of a clinical depression, but even seeking such is a decision the depression often renders its victims incapable of making.
One fact that I really, really liked about this book was that it didn’t take the easy out of “love heals everything” . Meeting Jascha, falling in love with him didn’t miraculously heal Peter; it was mostly a wake-up call for him, a reminder that his life could have a purpose, if he only found the strength to look for it. And, best of all, this wasn’t only for Peter. Jascha needed healing too, if a different kind, and meeting Peter set things for him in motion as well.
Despite all this realism, the ending was a little fairy-taleish. They fought, sure, each in his own way, and things didn’t miraculously fall in place for them but still…. It was heartwarming and hopeful, though, and on top of that, awfully romantic, so I won’t complain too hard. Romance is what we’re all after in the end, isn’t it?
If you’re in the mood for an intelligent, heartwarming, well-written romance with a touch of angst and a hearty dash of humor, try this book. I warmly recommend it.
A Road Not Taken will be released on September 4th, 2012