The Official Description: Eight years ago, Ondro Smrek fled Slovakia and the bigotry that drove his first lover to take his own life. The demons proved impossible to outrun, though, and now, desperate for somewhere to belong, Ondro is returning to start over. During a layover in Basel, Switzerland, he meets Jamie, an American living in Scotland who is as brilliant as he is beautiful.
Jaded Ondro never would have guessed he could fall in love during a brief layover—until now. When he is put in a position to offer Jamie comfort without hope of recompense, Ondro doesn’t hesitate. Soon, he catches a glimpse of the home he longs for. But with their separation looming, confessing his feelings would only lead to pain and humiliation. Life has taught Ondro not to hope, but then, he never believed in love at first sight either….
Length: 115 pages
Just the facts: Novella, M/M relationship, political, emotional
I was pleasantly surprised at how much was woven into this short work. It’s political, emotional and lingers in my mind. – Kinzie Things
My thoughts bit: Ondro finds himself in the nightmare situation of most travelers: he’s stuck halfway to his destination. In a strange twist of fate, he meets a young man who is so unusual that he strikes a chord within Ondro. They have a passing conversation but end up at the same hotel later. In the bar… Ondro takes a chance and approaches Jamie. They have a great conversation, flirt a little and then part. Ondro can’t resist giving Jamie his room number even though he feels as though he’s being too forward. Turns out, he isn’t that forward and they spend the night together.
In the morning, when they’re about to board separate planes, Jamie almost passes out and needs to be taken to the hospital. Ondro feels as though he can’t leave Jamie alone and accompanies him.
You might be thinking that this is one of those “instant love” kinds of books but it isn’t. The intended one night stand is simply a set up for the two characters to be together the following day. They definitely both seem to have wished that they could have met under different circumstances…but when Jamie falls ill it’s Ondro who won’t leave.
I think the overarching theme in this book is “home”. That might seem strange considering the genre of the book…but this is a pretty special story. I didn’t know much about the political climate in Slovakia before reading this book and I’ve now done some research. Ondro is really folding under the weight of never have been “at home” anywhere. As a child he was subjected to parents who weren’t open-minded, in his teens he was in love with a man who wasn’t out, and as an adult, he’s been jet setting around the world to stay away from his homophobic homeland.
Ondro is “seeking” and there is a connection between him and Jamie that seems to center him somehow for one of the first times in his life. A lot of this novella unfolds in Ondro’s thoughts and what a remarkable place that is. The fight that’s going on within him is palpable… the writing in this novella is beautiful. Ondro thinks back about his past relationship and the times he felt at peace… and the many times he hasn’t. What is it about Jamie that has reached something inside him that’s been dormant for so long?
For such a short piece of work, there’s incredible depth in “The Layover”. If great characterizations interest you, then please read this. I will happily read anything by this author in the future!
The thing is, the younger you are, the thinner is the sliver of the future you can imagine. – The Layover
The only issue I have with this story is the fact that it is categorized as a “MM romance”. I don’t think it is… I think that’s far too simple a description of the magic that happens in this story.
The warnings bit: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) homophobic society, a man in a relationship can’t disclose his sexual orientation, describes past suicide in detail, description of someone very ill (almost passing out, being hospitalized)
About the Author
Queer fiction author Roe Horvat was born in the post-communist wasteland of former Czechoslovakia. Equipped with a dark sense of sarcasm, Roe traveled Europe and finally settled in Sweden. He came out as transgender in 2017 and has been fabulous since. He loves Jane Austen, Douglas Adams, bad action movies, stand-up comedy, pale ale, and daiquiri, with equal passion. When not hiding in the studio doing graphics, he can be found trolling cafés in Gothenburg, writing, and people-watching.
More about the author:
Readalikes: Other similar reads you might like:
- Frankissstein: A Love Story by Jeanette Winterson
- Oz (Finding Home #1) by Lily Morton
- Someday, Someday by Emma Scott
I received an ARC of The Layover by Roe Horvat via Signal Boost Promotions in exchange for an unbiased review.