Herring Cove Press

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9798223552062 (Ebook - through D2Digital) 979-8-218-32791-0 (Ingramspark Print)



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By Michael Hartwig

IR Rating:
A stirring examination of grief, internalized shame, trauma, and the echoes of hope through generations, DON’T PUSH ME by Michael Hartwig is a necessary and ultimately uplifting gay romance.
IR Approved
Working through grief, a man travels to the Swiss Alps and traces the history of his beloved grandfather’s time as a POW there. He soon uncovers his grandfather’s secret romance with his physician, which unexpectedly connects them across generations.

Grieving the loss of his grandfather Clive, Elliott Williams takes a vacation to the remote skiing village of Mürren in the Swiss Alps, where Clive spent time recovering from tuberculosis as a British POW during WWI. Elliott soon discovers that the owners of the inn where he has booked his stay are descendants of Hans Weber, the physician who treated Clive all those decades ago. As Elliott’s relationship with Max—the elusive, enigmatic innkeeper—unfolds, the story flows back and forth through time, revealing a secret romance between Clive and Hans that echoes on for generations after. There might be much more drawing Elliott to this picturesque village—and to Max—if only they accept fate’s kinder twist.

DON’T PUSH ME is a tale of gay resistance and resilience, of carving out spaces despite the constrictions and attitudes of the time, of stubborn hope and survival—not just in wartime but in queer love prevailing against all odds. Though the narrative takes a lot of time unraveling the complex, gray areas of shame—especially internalized homophobia and moral guilt—it does highlight that not all attitudes were similar. Characters like one of Clive’s wartime buddies, his beloved wife Marie, and even Hans’s wife, show the different aspects of acceptance and finding pride in being true to oneself. Elliott and Max’s story in the mid-aughts—when society was just barely easing into acceptance—parallels Clive and Hans’s secret: forbidden romance with a captivating twist of fate.

The novel travels back and forth through time, following several points of view—from Elliott to Max, Hans, Clive, and others. The POV switches are not always immediately indicated, and sometimes there’s a bit of “head-hopping” within paragraphs of each other, which can make the reading experience a little confusing to navigate at first. The prose, while pleasant and descriptive and often poignant, does tend to get repetitive as the novel goes on. Characters are often described as “taking an evasive sip” of a drink, or having “protracted conversation,” and there’s an overabundant use of the word “moist” (sometimes within the same page). The latter makes some romantic scenes feel not quite as romantic or sensual as intended. Readers should also be aware that period-accurate homophobia is often discussed, as well as trauma related to childhood sexual abuse.

The liberating exhilaration of alpine skiing makes a fantastic backdrop to the emotional themes of the novel. It also helps find common ground between characters who are otherwise disparate across generations and geography. The precious bond between Elliott and his grandfather shines through in scenes on their skiing trips to Grindelwald through the years, and Elliott’s burgeoning relationship with Max plays out on the vast, snow-capped slopes of Mürren. The remote village comes alive with enchanting charm, a softness that balances with the difficult emotional toil of the characters. With a picturesque, charming Alpine village as the backdrop, there’s something heartbreaking and wonderful about watching time, history, and fate conspiring together to right the wrongs of the past. It’s a healing, necessary narrative, and author Michael Hartwig takes care in pulling all those loose ends together.

A stirring examination of grief, internalized shame, trauma, and the echoes of hope through generations, DON’T PUSH ME by Michael Hartwig is a necessary and ultimately uplifting gay romance.

~Jessica Thomas for IndieReader

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