Anita Kelly has very quickly become one of my favorite writers. They are on my very short auto-buy list. If you haven’t picked up Kelly’s Moonlighter’s series, you should do that. They are short, sweet, and very queer.
Something Wild & Wonderful is in the world of Love & Other Disasters, London and Delilah even make an appearance, but it is a stand alone in terms of plot. After being disowned by his parents and laid off from his job, Alexei is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (which runs from Mexico to Canada) to give himself a way to figure out who he will be going forward. Ben is on the trail to celebrate passing his nursing exams and as a last adventure before being more “adult”. He has promised himself that he will make good choices on the trail, like not hitting on the very handsome man who saves him from being bit by a rattlesnake.
I found the desire to use a big challenge to make a big change in your life so relatable. It’s like making a grand romantic gesture to yourself. And like a big romantic gesture, it isn’t the challenge itself that creates the change. Also relatable – they start out with the wrong goals. The joy of the book is watching them wrestle with themselves as they fall in love with each other.
One of the reasons I like Anita Kelly’s writing so much is that they write their characters with so much tenderness and respect. They give their characters, even characters we don’t meet on the page, believable complexity. Even Alexei’s parents, who have been monstrous to him, are not monsters. As Alexei comes to terms with his alienation from his parents, he writes a line in his journal that made me sob.
Does it count if the person they miss isn’t actually me?
Humans are social creatures and part of our identity will always be tied to our relationships and community. Having been rejected for who he is by his parents and their religious community, Alexei thinks he has to figure out his new identity in isolation. The revelations that Alexei and Ben have about their own lives and each other are less epiphanies and more understandings that build over time.
When I initially finished Something Wild & Wonderful, I thought it was lovely, but less ambitious than Love & Other Disasters. On reflection, I think its not less ambitious, just quieter.
CW: family alienation, childhood in a homophobic community, homophobia (challenged)
I received this as an advance reader copy from Forever (Grand Central Publishing) and NetGalley. My opinions are my own, freely and honestly given.