Review - "Happiness for Beginners" by Zahra Owens
Touching, tender story of love and longing
Jesse runs a travel agency in New York, newly separated from his business partner and lover. In a past life, he was one half of a very popular nighttime tv show about gay partners, but that was ten years before, and he hasn't seen Kaye, his co-star and best friend since then. Of course, Jesse quit the business after the show was cancelled after eight years on the air, not wanting to deal with his unrequited crush on his straight best friend.
And then right before Christmas, Kaye shows up at his door with a suitcase. Seems his third wife and he are divorcing, his show is off the air, and he has nowhere to go and nobody to see. And they are, or were, best friends.
So Jesse lets him stay. Visit with his sister and her kids. Share Christmas with him and catch up. And perhaps, share with him his secret - that he has been in love with him for years. But how will Kaye react? Will this destroy their friendship for good, or bring them closer together?
This sweet, touching, emotionally honest and oh so very effective story of unrequited love and secrets is just terrific. From the very first page, Zahra Owens had me fully engaged and curious. Was this going to be a gay for you story, or a I was secretly in love with you too, or a bittersweet no thanks tale? And, to my surprise and relief, it was none of them and all of them and something so unexpected.
Because there was so much to Kaye that was hidden, unknown, shunned. His past such a secret from Jesse, and his life, as it were, a facade. And Jesse - so sweetly understanding and patient. Love does that to a man. But every man has his limitations, and his reactions strike every emotional note just so correctly.
Kaye's story is so unexpected, so raw and painful and brave, and I read on and hurt for him and celebrated and ached. Ms. Owens is such a talented writer, and she brought out the big guns for this one.
Get this beautiful short work as a present for yourself this Christmas. You won't regret it.