In 2004, college students Eleanor Suzuki and Leena Shah meet in an elevator. Both girls are on the brink of adulthood, each full of possibility and big ideas, and they fall into a whirlwind romance. Years later, Eleanor and Leena collide on the streets of San Francisco. Although grown and changed and each separately partnered, the two find themselves, once again, irresistibly pulled back together.
The author taps into a basic truth: the emotional valence of moments that mean the most to us can be indecipherable without an understanding of the broader sweep of lived experience ... A World Between is Hashimoto's remarkable debut novel, a finely constructed, impassioned, and touching love story between two women ... The book's early pages are misleading. Eleanor, from whose perspective the first section is told, is a complex character, both engaging and frustrating ... The reader can't help but shake their head and roll their eyes, screaming inwardly at her childishness and naïveté as we watch the inevitable train wreck of a relationship unfold from miles away ... What the reader eventually realizes is this is no fault of the writer. Hashimoto has done a superb job of replicating the shifting emotional and psychological states of her protagonists over the nearly 15-year span of her story ... The social and political backdrop to the narrative is finely constructed as well ... a superb, captivating read, and a remarkable accomplishment for a first novel. It's fun, provocative, and doesn't shy away from cultural complexity.
I’ve never been much of a fan of romance novels or novels about relatively privileged young people making their way in the big city, but this is a coming of age romance novel with some compelling twists. This is a queer multi-racial love story and both women come from complex family histories. These elements shift the novel beyond genre to explore elements that held my interest through the lengthy novel ... despite expectations, the novel provides a twist at the end that again shifts it out of genre and into something stronger and more transcendent.
There is much to marvel at in this debut. Hashimoto is adept at plotting. She pulls Leena and Eleanor apart with narrative developments that are both unexpected and believable ... Despite these strengths, Leena and Eleanor’s honest, multi-stranded story is let down by the novel’s prose. Hashimoto’s similes fall flat as often as they succeed, and she pushes metaphors too hard ... A World Between’s greatest triumph is capturing the shape, color, and texture of attraction between two women ... The novel’s attempts to reflect America’s diversity and the characters’ progressivism feel as heavy-handed as its metaphors. Although the novel does the crucial literary (and, indeed, human) work of telling the stories of people of color, immigrants, Jews, and other marginalized groups, by the end of the novel, this diversity feels contrived and unrealistic ... Although Hashimoto’s diversity efforts feel manufactured, like a wooden puppet, her depictions of sex have the fluidity and heat of human bodies ... Though hindered by uneven prose, A World Between is a moving portrait of the tensions, joys, and warmth that characterize a relationship between two women.