Life has a funny way of exposing even the best-kept secrets and when it does, it has the potential to devastate. Such is the case in Hello, Agnieszka, the standalone second book in the Between Two Worlds romance series by Evy Journey.
Agnieszka (Agnes) Halverson has been a devoted wife and mother to her husband, Charles, and their three children, all grown now with lives of their own. Their only daughter, Elise, is shocked after receiving a phone call from her father who tells her that her oldest brother, Peter, had just tried to commit suicide. The next day, a pregnant Elise and her family, together with her other brother, Justin, gather in her parents’ living room, hoping to get some insight into Peter’s suicide attempt.
What Elise and her brother aren’t prepared for are Agnes’ halting revelations that their brother’s attempt on his life had been precipitated by the fact that he has a disease that will eventually kill him. However, that’s only the beginning of Agnes’ shocking news and in order for her children to begin to understand it all, she must go back in time and tell them the story of her past – something she’s steadfastly avoided until now – a past that includes her first two loves, the piano and a young man cruelly taken from her.
Hello, Agnieszka is, without a doubt, a beautifully-written, evocative story. Journey’s narrative is articulate and well-crafted, focusing on character development most of all. The characters of young Agnes, her Polish immigrant parents and her larger-than-life great Aunt Jola are fully fleshed out, thanks to the Journey’s innate ability to articulate life’s smaller nuances, allowing us to get into each character’s mind. The relationship between Lenny and Agnes is touching and sad but is balanced by the fact that Lenny did have flaws and wasn’t just a tragic martyr to his love for Agnes. This significant point, and the fact that we yearn for Agnes to have a stronger relationship with her father while rejoicing over her loving relationship with Lenny’s mother, reinforces Journey’s considerable skills as a writer.
However, every story, regardless how well-written, requires tension and conflict to give it substance and this is where Hello, Agnieszka isn’t as strong as it could be. The story begins and ends in the present, with the vast majority of it set in the past. While there’s plenty of conflict in the story that’s set in the past, the portion set in the present lacks the necessary conflict to make it compelling – due mostly because we never actually meet the eldest brother, Peter. We are told about him, and his conflicting feelings and actions, rather than witnessing them first-hand. As a result, it’s difficult to feel a deep connection to Peter’s character, which is crucial given the events that unfold are pivotal to his character.
That said, there is much to love in the novel, as the portrayals of all the other players are so strong. More women’s fiction than romance, Hello, Agnieszka is a wonderful, emotional journey that perfectly complements the first book in the series.
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