Let's Go Out
Let’s Go Out is the sequel to Let’s Connect and, as with that story, was originally written in instalments that were sent out with the author’s newsletter. In it we met sweet, quirky Robin and Dan – a just-turned-fifty divorcé having trouble moving on with his life – who met each other online via the Let’s Connect dating app. The men chatted regularly and went on a few virtual dates; things were going well between them, and Robin hoped that maybe there was a chance of his having a real relationship again, but he also knew that his anxiety about going outside was going to be a big obstacle and that he just… wasn’t ready. Let’s Go Out picks up Robin’s story shortly after Dan told him he was in love with someone else (his long-time crush and best friend) and they agreed to stay in touch as friends.
Robin works from home as an environment architect for video games. He’s online with his colleague and best friend Barrett frequently, as they work through and test the latest developments in their current projects, but otherwise, the only person Robin sees regularly is Kaleb, the teenaged son of his next-door neighbour Sean. Kaleb runs errands for Robin and he and his dad have joined Robin for Thanksgiving for the last few years; Robin likes Sean – maybe he even has a little bit of a crush on him – but like Dan, Sean exists in the outside world, and if Robin wants to get to know him and see if maybe there’s a chance for them to be more than friends, he’s going to have to walk through his front door.
Kelly Jensen does a great job here of exploring Robin’s situation. Anxiety has been a lifelong problem for him, but the death of a beloved pet around the same time as the break-up of a long-term relationship hit him really hard and almost without his realising it, three years have passed and he’s gone no further than his back yard. And even that, not very often. But sometimes, just occasionally, he’s discovers his need to be outside is greater than his fear of stuff – and on one particular evening, he ventures out there and hears sounds coming from the other side of the fence that tell him someone – probably Sean – is outside, too. Through a knot-hole in the fence, he can see that Sean – an artist and sculptor – is working on something, and almost jumps out of his skin when Sean starts talking about it. Robin wonders for a second if someone is there with Sean (he hadn’t realised Sean knew he was there) but no, Sean is talking to him, and Robin is torn between wanting to stay and chat, and wanting to rush back inside the house and pretend Sean had never spoken to him. But Robin stays, and is intrigued by piece Sean shows him through the hole in the fence, one of a series of mosaic tiles he’s working on for an upcoming show. When Robin asks about the story behind them, Sean tells him: “Isolation. Separation. Loneliness.” Robin is stunned and a little panicked and runs back inside.
“Sean had seen him. Not the man lurking behind the fence, but the man waiting inside Robin’s skin.”
Robin longs to see the other tiles, to see the rest of the story. But to do that… he’ll have to go out.
Let’s Go Out is short and sweet, but like its predecessor doesn’t lack depth or insight. Robin is the PoV character here, he’s well-realised and his dryly humorous outlook and inner monologues are delightful. Unfortunately however, Sean is less well-developed, and although Robin thinks about him and they have the occasional conversations through the fence and via text, physically, he’s on the periphery of the story for around three-quarters of it. In fact, Robin spends more time interacting with Barrett in the first half of the book than he does with Sean! Sean’s a great guy though; he’s intelligent, creative and very respectful of Robin’s situation and issues, plus he’s incredibly patient, waiting three years for Robin to be ready – ready for Sean, for taking those first steps out and to finally realise that he’s never been alone because Sean and Kaleb have been there for him. But… I couldn’t help thinking he was just a little bit too perfect.
The found family aspect of the story is lovely, and Robin and Sean make a great couple, but the romance in this one takes a bit of a back seat to Robin’s journey. His anxiety issues are handled sensitively and the way he progresses– or doesn’t – feels very realistic and appropriate; just because he wants to go out and has set himself some achievable goals, doesn’t mean it’s easy or that he’s always going to be successful. But I was cheering him on from the sidelines, and delighted at every breakthrough.
Even with those reservations, Let’s Go Out is worth a recommendation. It’s not absolutely essential to have to have read Let’s Connect first, but I’d suggest doing so; they’re short, satisfying stories that will leave you with a smile on your face – and there’s always room for more of those!
Buy it at: Amazon
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