The Beginning Place (1979) by Urusula LeGuin was one of those books that I used to see in the library. Something about the title grabbed me, but I never quite got around to picking it up. I thought it was a young adult book, but in that, I was wrong. Now we would call it a new adult book.
This book challenges my ability to summarize it, or even understand it. Although pegged as part romance, it doesn't progress as you would expect a romance to progress. The man isn't strong. The woman isn't beautiful. Their destinies are not perfect together, if only they'd see it. Quite honestly, what we have is two normally hurt people trying to turn themselves into competent adults, and having a too few role models to fall back on.
Meanwhile, we have the fantasy world which is vaguely gothic in feel, always evening, yet usually pleasant and welcoming. The world itself seems to have rules rather than overt magic steamrolling the narrative. This is not a story of overt magic. This world feels substantially more whole, feeds our protagonists in a more satisfying way. And while they are they, time almost stops, but never completely enough to forget yourself. The responsibilities of the real world always pull them out.
Although I'd like to rate this highly, I found that the story left me, as a person, a bit emptier. The romance felt rushed and perfunctory. The ending felt out of character. The symbolism left me hanging. Whatever this book was supposed to be, or aimed to be, I feel that it went too far in too many directions to leave it much of anything. Like a hollow chocolate bunny, an outside layer of delicious can't hide the empty middle.