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
"Writing in alternating first-person chapters, Feltman renders each perspective with moving fidelity to her characters and their interior lives. When Willa worries that 'loving me had an expiration date' or Hesper feels 'radioactive with depression,' there's not a whiff of ironic distance or judgment. It's an impressive feat for any novelist working in the shadow of TV shows like HBO's Girls or novels like Emily Gould's Friendship, which attracted outsized criticism for their depictions of "unlikable" young women coming up in the city. The result is a deep and intimate portrait of two queer women in their mid-20s who come of age in New York while navigating-or refusing to navigate-their relationships to privilege, family, identity, and faith. What could be a novel about an intense attraction that falls apart is, in Feltman's hands, a bigger story about how people change us-and how we welcome or resist that change. A moving glimpse into 21st-century queer womanhood." (Kirkus)
"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." (Publisher's Weekly)
"From Willa and Hesper, readers may see how relationships between twentysomethings, even when brief, have the potential to inspire unimaginable self-discovery.... Feltman's novel is as titillating and tense as the experience of young adult love." (Booklist)
What members say
I recently finished this book & it was so good in so many ways. It’s a f/f romance that focuses on the whole of a relationship that Willa & Hesper had - including the breakup and their individual choices & trips post breakup. It also features fantastic commentary on diaspora communities in general but especially the third generation in the US. One character is Jewish and lost family in the Shoah; the other is Eastern European (I’m having a brain fart on remembering the where) by way of her Grandfather who is dying & slowly losing his memories. Both go on trips to various countries in Europe & discover intimate things about themselves & their experiences & they both realize and appreciate finally the experience of being in a relationship together. It’s a beautiful book & I highly recommend it. I’d categorize this one as between YA & general fiction- Hester is 22 while Willa is 28. There isn’t much sex in it but there’s plenty of kissing and I will say a content warning for obviously Holocaust discussion but also sexual assault (the character comes to terms with it in the end & it’s beautifully handled). The narrators are perfect choices. I’m definitely buying a physical copy for my personal library because it is such a wonderful & important novel.