First of all, let me state that I’m a cisgender lesbian, so it’s completely possible that some aspects of this book I found respectful or interesting are in fact offensive. If that’s the case, I apologise and would be very grateful for any comment pointing them out.
I’ll be honest, Finding Tranquility made me uneasy for most of the time I was reading it. I’m wary of cisgender (as far as I know) straight (as far as I know) people writing our stories. That may sound unfair but experience has taught me to be suspicious. As I wrote in my review for Town Without Mercy, best intentions, the road to hell and all that… Also, I’m a huge proponent of own voices, and would rather use my time, energy and space to boost my community’s voices on their stories than that of outsiders.
That said, I’m also curious, and when I was given the chance to take a look at this novel, I took it. And I’ve been pleasantly surprised.
On September 11th 2001, twenty-two-year-old Brett Cooper was supposed to fly for a job interview from Boston to Los Angeles, where their wife and best friend Jess was hoping they would relocate after she’d been accepted to med school at UCLA. A panic attack prevented Brett from boarding, effectively saving their life. When the plane crashed into the World Trade Center, Brett Cooper officially died, and Jess became a 9/11 widow. Leaving Jess was both the hardest decision Brett had ever had to make and the only choice, or so it seemed at the time. An unexpected chance to really live life as it was meant to be. Brett’s death allowed Christa to rise and become. Eighteen years later, Jess and Christa meet again, by accident. The connection is still as strong, compelling. Both women’s lives are turned upside down once again. Jess thought she was a widow; she is not. Will she have to pay back the insurance money she has used to fund her studies? Could she be part of a couple again, with the person who’s held her heart since they were both fourteen? For Christa, it’s a chance to finally live the life she was meant to live, as herself, with the love of her life. And to meet the son she never knew she had.
One of the things I liked best was that Jess’s anger, her doubts, her distrust towards Christa have nothing to do with her gender identity. Sure, she’s surprised, and embarrassed to realise she never really knew the person she’s loved all her life. However, once she starts recovering from the shock, she understands almost immediately why Christa felt trapped in her life, why she felt there was no way out at the time. While it takes time for her to come to terms with all this, her hurt stems from Christa’s disappearing act, the fact that Jess had to live eighteen years believing the love of her life was dead.
The story alternates between Christa’s and Jess’s point of view. The writing is good, the pace is consistent. There are a few secondary characters (not too many, just enough), and they are quite well-shaped too. The ending is a tad rushed, but it works.
All in all, it was an interesting read. As I wrote above, this book was unexpectedly respectful. Certainly not perfect but not offensive either, at least not that I can tell from my own cisgender point of view.