I obtained an ARC copy of his book in exchange for an honest review as part of the launch blog tour of the novel.
This is the fourth book I have read by Hans Hirschi. I also read his blog regularly and I’m aware that another author bestowed upon him the title of ‘Queen of Unconventional Endings’ and he has taken proud ownership of the same. And in this book the author lives up to the title.
Spanish Bay is a young adult love story between two young men, Neil and Chris, who meet in very special circumstances. Neil is disabled due to a rare muscular disease and he has to mobilise using a wheelchair. He is being bullied in front of Sally’s, the café where Chris works, and he comes to his rescue. It is love at first sight. Neil is still in school, due to the time he had to spend in hospital (he is already nineteen) and both he and Chris are outsiders. Chris was thrown out of the ranch where he lived with his family when they discovered he was gay. Neil feels invisible, as people see his chair instead of him, and although he knows he is attracted to men, he’s never had the confidence to explore it any further. He worries that nobody will see past his chair.
Chris and Neil, despite their different origins (Chris’s parents are a bit of a disaster, whilst Neil’s are enlightened and supportive most of the time, if a bit overprotective, understandably), are made for each other, and they are both aware of it from the very beginning. Their love story encounters many complications and hurdles to overcome, but there are no misunderstandings, jealousy, or difficulties within the couple. All the problems come from outside, mostly through life and their families, or rather, Chris’s family. Every time things seem settled, something new comes up. The beauty of the novel (and it is a pretty short one), that made me think of a fairy tale, is that together, they are strong, they complement each other beautifully, and they conquer everything that life throws in their way. Chris has a huge heart, and Neil is mature and determined beyond his years, and they are better for being together.
There are characters that act like fairy godmothers (or godfathers), like Sue (Neil’s fabulous pot-smoking grandma), Sally (the owner of the coffee shop), Junior (Chris’s oldest brother), and Old Mr Murphy (Steve). There are some characters that do bad things, like Alexandra, but they aren’t true villains, more victims of circumstances and misguided. Everybody roots for the young couple, and not only are they happy, but they irradiate happiness around, and help create strengthen both their families.
Spanish Bay is a book that will make you feel at peace with the universe, and you’ll wish you could move and live in Carmel with the characters. If you’re looking for gritty realism and deep psychological studies full of angst-ridden characters, this is not it. But if you want a heart-warming read that will put a smile on your face while touching on matters like family relationships, disability, diversity and choice, you’ve come to the right place.