John and Jackie first meet when they are twelve years old. Now, seventy-one years later, Jackie prepares to give his beloved husband the ultimate gift. In the story, set over the course of a single afternoon, they relive key moments from their lives together. This includes their first meeting and first kiss, through the violence of an abusive father and the heartache of growing up. I am not ashamed to say I cried practically the whole way through this perfect example of a novella.
A friend emailed me his review for John & Jackie, and the covering note said, “Well, that was messy.” I know what he means; I sobbed when I read it for the first time, in the anthology Crack the Darkest Sky Wide Open, and I sobbed this time around, too. The dedication may explain why it made both of us break down -
This little story is for those who have ever loved with their whole hearts.
That dedication makes this story all inclusive; with that dedication TJ Klune underscores what the LGBTQ+ community, and our allies, have been trying to say for decades, Love is Love.
This is a true novella in that nothing is left unsaid, and the story is complete. By restricting the author who, by his own admission, can be somewhat verbose, his writing skills shine through. This author can play with his reader’s emotions almost without parallel in the romance world, and pared back, the structure works by adding an urgency and heightening the emotion in his story.
John & Jackie, is a story all of us will face in one form or another and like love, death is the great leveller. Love and death do not care if you are gay, bi, trans, ace, straight, or permanently wondering!
The author is a being a tad disingenuous when he refers to John & Jackie as a little story; it is a huge story that covers life, love, death and everything in between and after. TJ Klune takes the big themes and distils them into a story that we can all relate to. This may be the best novella I’ve ever read, and yes, that is a big statement to make about a little story.
I could wax lyrical about this line or that, or why this works or how this small touch makes all the difference, but I won’t. What I will say is this: read this novella but have tissues and someone you love in the house to hug when you finish it. I am not embarrassed about crying at novels; it is the sign of a good writer that they can convey extreme emotions through words
Being a genre romance, John & Jackie has a happy ending that had me crying all over again.
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