I never read much fanfic. I know a lot of readers came to lesfic that way but that’s not been my journey. Maybe because I started reading lesfic before the internet became something you could access on a daily basis. Or maybe because it never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t find sapphic stories in books. I grew up reading Jeanette Winterson and Armistead Maupin. I read Colette later than I should have and I loved La Fille aux yeux d’or by Honoré de Balzac. I found my wlw wherever they were. And sure, when I came out, the choice in lesfic was a lot smaller than it is now but I made it work. That’s one area where a crappy memory actually helps. Some of those first lesfic books I got I read many many times and I’m not saying it was like reading a brand new book each time but it kinda was.
What I’m saying in this roundabout way of mine is I almost completely missed the fanfic train. I read a couple over the years but fanfic remains an almost entirely unfamiliar territory. Yet, as if I didn’t have enough stories to read already, Milena McKay convinced me to give this one a try. I loved Milena’s debut novel The Delicate Things We Make, I loved her Valentine’s Day novella The Perfect Match, I love the way she writes (read her review of Change of Plans by KJ and see if it doesn’t make you want to read this book, provided my own review didn’t already do the job), so if she says a story is beautifully written, I trust her.
I know I’m supposed to get to the review now (if you’re impatient, go read Milena’s), but one last thing. For my first full-length fanfic (that’s not been turned into a book), I wanted one about a show I haven’t watched. The way my brain is wired, alternate universes confuse me. Where I’m Going Now, I Don’t Know is The Closer / Major Crimes fanfic so that worked, though why I haven’t watched these shows, I have no idea. Anyhow, Wikipedia told me everything I needed to know beforehand.
What is it about? Brenda Leigh Johnson’s husband has been murdered, she’s been pushed into early retirement and she’s only pretending to live. Her niece Charlie moves in with her, which forces her to at least make an effort to pretend better. Charlie – a sweetheart with her own secrets – brings back into Brenda’s life her former nemesis, Sharon Raydor. Brenda’s feelings towards Sharon are complicated and confusing and she keeps pushing her away. Sharon, being just as stubborn, pushes right back.
This is a story of two “older” (I’m adding quotes because I think I’m in the older category now and how? why? when did that happen?) women going from enemies to friends to lovers. Brenda is in her 50s, Sharon in her 60s. Both have been married to men – twice in Brenda’s case – and now, suddenly, they fall in love with another woman. Their journeys didn’t follow the exact same path but the destination is the same.
Maybe because the story doesn’t really show them at work, where they’re exceptional, what we get to see of them is two rather normal women doing what they can to be happy. They’re relatable and lovable. Yes, even Brenda, even when she’s down and grumpy and unfair. The romance is a lovely slow burn that made my heart ache. There’s an almost-first kiss that’s at once very sweet and very hot, and when the real first kiss finally – finally!!! – takes place, it’s perfect, both for the characters and for the reader.
I mentioned Charlie, Brenda’s niece. I really liked her character, as well as Sharon’s adopted son Rusty. There are a few other secondary characters, all well-fleshed, even the minor ones.
Even though it begins as a story of grief and depression on one side and of fighting lifelong desires on the other, even though there’s a constant current of melancholy, that’s, in fact, rather beautiful, Where I’m Going Now, I Don’t Know left me with a feeling of fulfilment and warmth. Honestly, what’s better than people who get a second – or third, or fourth – chance at life and make the most of it? When you think things are over and you’ve missed your chance at happiness but realise you didn’t?
There are a few absolutely perfect sentences and who cares if tenses aren’t always consistent. If this ever became a book, fixing tenses would be easy. The story itself doesn’t need any fixing.