Dominican-American Desta Walker has finally returned to Ethiopia, where his family lived for a few years when he was a small boy, and later, where his father died.
He meets Elias through his job, and the two hit it off right away. But being gay is still criminalized, so any sort of relationship has to be clandestine.
Desta is a delightful protagonist. He’s similar to Herrera’s other protagonists: confident, a bit cocky, and a total sweetheart. He falls for Elias almost instantly, but he’s very respectful because he’s hyperaware of the ramifications for Elias. He tests the waters, so to speak, by playing the audiobook of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, a queer YA novel, during their long drives, a move which is both surreptitious and adorable.
Likewise, Elias could not be a more perfect love interest. Not only is he handsome and tall, but he’s funny and he’s passionate about his job—and his country—and he’s so sweet and tender. But he calls out Desta when the situation warrants it.
Desta and Elias have amazing chemistry, and I love that friendship serves as the foundation for their relationship. There’s so much affection between those two, but Desta’s time in Ethiopia is limited and they can’t be together openly, and with all of that to consider, Desta feels greedy asking for more.
Herrera spent several years living in Ethiopia, and her love for the country is reflected throughout the book, from the numerous descriptions of the food to the music to minutiae of working for an international aid organization. Her descriptions are highly evocative, and basically, now I’m hungry for Ethiopian food.
Desta and Elias are supported by a small cast of secondary characters, all of whom have unique personalities and motivations, even if they only appear briefly. I knew that Sam was going to be a “Misty” from the moment he appeared.
I would absolutely recommend Finding Joy. Herrera is one of my favorite authors, and this book was a delight from start to finish. I’m already looking forward to her next book.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.