Cover Image: Beyond Any Experience

Beyond Any Experience

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Member Reviews

Olivia is doing her best being a working, single mom to her autistic son, Ben.  It has been three years since the car wreck that killed her wife.  But she’s been managing by finding a routine that works for Ben. 
Ellie is an occupational therapist that has been struggling with guilt over leaving her job in the inner city for a higher paying job in the suburbs, where Olivia’s son, Ben, goes after school to work on building skills to better manage symptoms of his autism.
Ellie develops feelings for Olivia and eventually tells Olivia how she feels.  Olivia is attracted to Ellie, but worries about their age difference and about bringing someone new into Ben’s life, after the only other time she dated someone since her wife’s death ended in disaster and a broken heart.  
Olivia relents and she and Ellie take things slow, but eventually they fall in love.  It takes work bringing someone new into Ben’s life but Ellie’s experience in occupational therapy helps a tremendous amount.  But the road isn’t without its roadblocks and the relationship comes to a breaking point.  Can Ellie convince Olivia not to run away from their love?  You’ll have to read the book to find out.
I really enjoyed this book.  Anne Terpstra is an excellent writer who created a beautiful story about love, loss, heartbreak, and family.  It was easy to hope for these characters to find a happy ending.
Much thanks to @netgalley for this ARC copy of Beyond Any Experience by Anne E. Terpstra.  #lgbtq #lgbtqia+ #pride #wlw #sapphicromance #queerbookclub #queerbookstagram #queerrepresentationmatters #lesbianromance #lovestory #literature #fiction #lgbtqfiction
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NetGalley ARC Educator 550974

Starting over after losing a loved one is hard. Throw in the challenges of raising a kid, whew. This book explorerd the nuances of love after loss. All facets of grief are explored. It is not a read for the faint of heart.
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I enjoyed Beyond Any Experience, both as a fictional story as well as a lesson in sexuality. Anne Terpstra describes herself as writing sex-positive stories and I really found that to be the case here.

I thoroughly enjoyed the character growth and introspection from both Olivia and Ellie. Both characters were flawed and interesting and the relationship that forms, as a result, is one of give and take in a lot of beautiful ways (emotionally, sexually, mentally).

The only real issue I found with the book was how heavy-handed it felt as if the dialogue with Ben (Olivia's son) felt. It seemed as if it were more there to serve the story of Ellie and Olivia than serve Ben's story. This made me feel uncomfortable, as it felt as if disability here was used as a pawn rather than thoughtfully engaged with.

I still really enjoyed the book, don't get me wrong. I found it to be an enlightening, beautiful way to learn about romance in a way that is still quite new to me.
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This book is labeled as literary fiction and women’s fiction, but don’t be fooled — it’s every bit as much of a lesbian romance as the others. It just takes on a deeper subject. It still follows the exact same formula as lesbian romance, though, including some sex scenes that were so hot they almost crossed over into being too much. 

The heartbreak of becoming a young widow can’t be known by any of us who haven’t experienced it. But this book definitely put it into context as far as the emotions involved with the entire thing. I felt sorry for Olivia, and I could understand where some of her lesser impulses came from. I also found it beautiful that it took a woman 10 years younger to bring her back to herself. 

This was a very emotional story, and it’s pretty much guaranteed to make you cry. Be aware of that going into it. 

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an ARC. This review contains my honest, unbiased opinion.
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Some books have a way of telling you they are going to be favourite before you read its first line. Something about Beyond Any Experience called to me and I am so glad I answered.

This character-driven story was lyrical and so poignant, I felt Olivia’s grief in my own skin, crawling and churning and aching as much as she did. I am beyond impressed and pleased with Anne  E. Terpstra and will be the first in line to read every other book she publishes.

I will start with what I loved. I absolutely loved Olivia and Ellie’s age and their subsequent age gap. The fact that they were older lesbians (in their mid-thirties and forties) was such a beautiful prelude to the romance. Seeing a story centred around a romantically and emotionally mature women set the bar very high for future WLW books for me. The way the romance was explored, with so much attention to their conversations, their feelings, was a beautiful lead into an even more beautiful set of intimate scenes. Anne Terpstra’s attention to detail and commitment to not only writing sensual but also intimately erotic scenes blew me away. This book contains my all-time favourite intimate scenes! The way lesbian intimacy was portrayed—including such emotional conversations before, during, and after—made me feel seen and understood.

Similar to so many beautiful scenes, there were exquisite lines and interactions. I highlighted quotes and actions and entire bits of dialogue because they made me feel so much with so little intention. I was captivated by the writing style and can only hope that the author knows how captivating her writing is. I truly cannot get over Olivia and Ellie and their growth as a couple. While I wish there had been a few more interactions prior to Ellie disclosing her feelings to Olivia, the devotion to their relationship was worth the seemingly rushed beginning.

Despite not having children, let alone any experience with children with autism, I was captivated by Ben and Olivia’s relationship. It was just as central to the story as Olivia’s and Ellie’s, and I found Ben’s presence throughout the book to be very touching. Again, the author was very attentive to the interactions and details, and made sure to maintain the emotional maturity as she presented both the characters and the audience with emotionally charged situations.

One of the things that I didn’t love, on the other hand, was the intermittent dialogue in Spanish. As an immigrant and a Latina whose at-home spoken language was not English, something about the overt inclusion of Spanish sentences and words didn’t feel natural (at all) to me. While I loved—and really, I loved!—that Ellie is Mexican, I didn’t think she was culturally described as so. In many ways, I feel like the Spanish words and phrases were an overcompensation for the lack of cultural aspects that could have been included. As someone who also lived in Chicago and knows several Mexican and Mexican-American folks, I would have much preferred to have Ellie share special foods, or go to certain places in the city where my friends and I often frequented, maybe even mention cultural rituals that are reserved for special occasions or special people, instead of the Americanised dialogue in Spanish. It felt a little like every stereotypical Latine character in Hollywood where their Spanglish is almost always written by a non-Latine person.

The second was the passage of time. I did not know how much time had passed until either a character or the exposition explicitly stated it, taking me aback when I tried to realign the plot up until that point.

With that being said, I feel so honoured to have read this ARC and to be able to carry this story with me as a new favourite book. This was a 4.25 star for me and a certain reread in the near future! Thank you to NetGalley, NineStar Press, and Anne E. Terpstra for sharing this ARC with me in exchange for an honest review.
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This is a well written book featuring a main character Olivia that is  dealing with grief over the death of her wife while also having to provide caregiving to her autistic son. It’s not for me but I see it being well received by queer women who are in the stage of their lives where they are mothers or caregivers themselves.
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You read the blurb and know this book is about finding love after loss; what you didn't expect is this emotional journey you will go through, and it turned me into a sobbing mess.

Beyond Any Experience is Anne E. Terpstra's debut. She's an incredible storyteller, and her story will dig deep inside your heart. What happens to Olivia is a tragic story; it's heartbreaking and suffocating, but then there's Ellie, who's gentle and soft and very understanding; she'll make you feel heartwarming and full of hope and love. I also want to mention the sex scene in the book is so powerful; it's emotional and sensual (and steamy lol)

I love this book, and I can't stop thinking about it. I'd really love to read anything Anne writes in the future.
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A novel of emotional experiences. 
When Olivia’s partner dies, her ‘new’ life revolves around Ben, their autistic son. The tragedy of losing her wife to a drunk driver has left her shattered in profound grief as she navigates her way as single parent, When Olivia’s decision to embark on the chance of a new relationship proves unsuccessful, she withdraws.
As for Ben, school is a struggle.  Enter Ellis Vasquez, the new therapist at Ben’s school. Ellie is spontaneous and unpredictable and attracted to Olivia. Meeting for drinks, the conversation is easy, comfortable and although cautious, Olivia is attracted to Ellie. Ben has taken to Ellie too and the more time they spend together, the more Olivia feels that this could be her second chance at happiness, at love and one that will fill her heart and Ben’s. 
With wonderfully descriptive moments and the touching of the readers heartstrings, Ann Terpstra has written a captivating debut!
Thanks to NetGalley, Anne Terpstra and NineStar Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest book review.
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This is a complex and well-layered piece of fiction. The storytelling is exceptionally well done; the characters get under one’s skin. It’s an emotional story though, and its brutal honesty squeezes the heart at times. However, its tenderness is so warm and sweet, one can’t help but smile. This is one of those love stories that grabs readers. It’s the kind that readers enjoy a second or even third time. Why? Because it’s driven by emotions readers can understand and easily relate.

Besides being easy to fall into, Beyond Any Experience is well-mapped and character driven. The internal conflict is laid bare within the first chapters and readers are hooked. They clearly understand Olivia’s fears as well as her desires. They can also see that the two are in battle with one another. Olivia’s constant blame-game with herself over her wife Sophia’s death holds her back from truly living. In turn, it holds her son Ben back too. As a result, readers are glued to the pages watching the struggle play out. They appreciate the power of blame and guilt and understand the effect it has on Olivia’s grief. Furthermore, they want Olivia to push through this dark tunnel of despair and loneliness so that she can embrace joy and happiness again.

Ellie is the heroine in this heartfelt romance and a nice counterbalance to the strong personality of Olivia. She is everything this story needs. Most importantly though, she is everything Olivia and Ben need. Readers fall in love with her; she simply and effortlessly charms them. She is strong without being hard, vulnerable without being weak and more generous with her love than she probably should be. Readers are sympathetic to her. Ellie only wants to care for this fragile family. It’s a two way street though; Ellie has some emotional scars of her own that need healing, past hurts that have cut her deeply. By caring for Olivia and Ben, she restores her confidence and patches her heart. Moreover, her willful spirit provides a conduit for them all to recover and return to life.

Though the story construction and character development is beyond solid, it’s the honesty that really attracts readers. Terpstra has an uncanny ability to peel back the emotions in a straightforward way, one that feels real and authentic. She doesn’t shy away from illustrating the pain experienced by grief or hesitate to dig into the messiness it. It’s ugly, and she doesn’t pretend otherwise. She flays it wide open and these characters’ actions expose the realities that exist under its weight. And since it’s a part of Olivia and Ben’s life, she makes it a part of their journey. Because it is a part of their journey, it is also a part of their growth. Readers see them change and transform, an imperative part of this story. Their acceptance of Sophia’s death rehabs their ability to engage life, not sleepwalk through it.

Final remarks…

This is an emotional and heartfelt story, one that’s compelling as well as affecting. Readers are drawn to the characters inside these pages. They relate to their past hurts and deepest desires. Terpstra does an excellent job spinning this story. She infuses it with the right amounts of sadness, hope, joy and love, making it believable and beautiful. This is definitely one for the must-read pile.

Strengths…

Well-written
Solid character development
Wise, likable secondary characters
Relatable
Sticks with readers after they’ve finished
Re-readable
Compelling
Engaging
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