Beyond Any Experience by Anne E. Terpstra

The details…

  • Title: Beyond Any Experience
  • Author: Anne E. Terpstra
  • Publisher: NineStar Press
  • Publication date: May 31, 2022
  • Available formats: ebook, paperback
  • File size: 1101 KB
  • Print length: 388 pages
  • Genre: romantic fiction
  • Themes: grief, recovery, falling in love again, family, parenthood, autism,
  • Trope: grieving widow, single parent

The blurb from the publisher…

Olivia Northman’s world shattered the day she lost her wife to a drunk driver. Three years later, she still struggles with grief and the demands of being a single parent to their autistic son, Ben. After her first attempt at a new relationship crumbles, Olivia retreats to the simple, the predictable. It’s what’s best for her son and her heart.

Ellie Vasquez isn’t simple or predictable. In fact, she’s charmingly impulsive, as well as gregarious, confident, and attracted to Olivia, which she reveals in an unguarded moment. Olivia doesn’t know what’s more surprising — Ellie’s interest, or her own — but a quiet conversation over drinks soon spins into something more. As Olivia’s caution gives way to hope, she sees another chance at love, both for her, and for Ben, who takes to Ellie with a tender openness. Ellie is fearless about love in a way that makes Olivia want to be brave, but the deeper their passion, the closer she gets to drowning — in grief, in fear, in guilt. To have a future with Ellie, Olivia must come to terms with her past. If she can’t, she risks losing the second love of her life.

Anne E. Terpstra’s Beyond Any Experience is an intimate, emotional debut that explores grief, parenting, neurodiversity, and the vulnerability of love after loss.

My thoughts…

This is a complex and well-layered piece of fiction. The storytelling is exceptionally well done; the characters get under one’s skin. It’s an emotional story though, and its brutal honesty squeezes the heart at times. However, its tenderness is so warm and sweet, one can’t help but smile. This is one of those love stories that grabs readers. It’s the kind that readers enjoy a second or even third time. Why? Because it’s driven by emotions readers can understand and easily relate.

Besides being easy to fall into, Beyond Any Experience is well-mapped and character driven. The internal conflict is laid bare within the first chapters and readers are hooked. They clearly understand Olivia’s fears as well as her desires. They can also see that the two are in battle with one another. Olivia’s constant blame-game with herself over her wife Sophia’s death holds her back from truly living. In turn, it holds her son Ben back too. As a result, readers are glued to the pages watching the struggle play out. They appreciate the power of blame and guilt and understand the effect it has on Olivia’s grief. Furthermore, they want Olivia to push through this dark tunnel of despair and loneliness so that she can embrace joy and happiness again.

Ellie is the heroine in this heartfelt romance and a nice counterbalance to the strong personality of Olivia. She is everything this story needs. Most importantly though, she is everything Olivia and Ben need. Readers fall in love with her; she simply and effortlessly charms them. She is strong without being hard, vulnerable without being weak and more generous with her love than she probably should be. Readers are sympathetic to her. Ellie only wants to care for this fragile family. It’s a two way street though; Ellie has some emotional scars of her own that need healing, past hurts that have cut her deeply. By caring for Olivia and Ben, she restores her confidence and patches her heart. Moreover, her willful spirit provides a conduit for them all to recover and return to life.

Though the story construction and character development is beyond solid, it’s the honesty that really attracts readers. Terpstra has an uncanny ability to peel back the emotions in a straightforward way, one that feels real and authentic. She doesn’t shy away from illustrating the pain experienced by grief or hesitate to dig into the messiness it. It’s ugly, and she doesn’t pretend otherwise. She flays it wide open and these characters’ actions expose the realities that exist under its weight. And since it’s a part of Olivia and Ben’s life, she makes it a part of their journey. Because it is a part of their journey, it is also a part of their growth. Readers see them change and transform, an imperative part of this story. Their acceptance of Sophia’s death rehabs their ability to engage life, not sleepwalk through it.

Final remarks…

This is an emotional and heartfelt story, one that’s compelling as well as affecting. Readers are drawn to the characters inside these pages. They relate to their past hurts and deepest desires. Terpstra does an excellent job spinning this story. She infuses it with the right amounts of sadness, hope, joy and love, making it believable and beautiful. This is definitely one for the must-read pile.

Strengths…

  • Well-written
  • Solid character development
  • Wise, likable secondary characters
  • Relatable
  • Sticks with readers after they’ve finished
  • Re-readable
  • Compelling
  • Engaging

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A bit about this author…

Anne E. Terpstra (she/her) writes heartfelt, sex-positive fiction that is grounded in realism and centers LGBTQ+ characters. Her debut novel, Beyond Any Experience, will be published in 2022.

Anne graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has degrees in journalism and technical theater. She has worked as a copy editor/proofreader, and she is a member of the Chicago Writers Association. In addition to being an author, Anne is a potter and photographer. In all of her pursuits, she enjoys exploring the unexpected angle or unappreciated detail.

Anne and her wife live in Chicago with their son. When she isn’t writing, throwing pots, or taking photos, she procrastinates by baking and gardening.

Connect with this author…

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Women Using Words

I love reading! I’m passionate about sapphic and queer women loving women fiction. I enjoy discussing and reviewing these books on my blog, Women Using Words.