Thursday, January 29, 2015

Remember Me Like This by Bret Anthony Johnston

The first thing I liked about this novel is the region: the Texas Gulf Coast. I read a lot and I seriously can't remember any taking place in this area that were fictional. The details Johnston uses to create this locale are many and effective: I could picture it all happening.

The first premise I felt was a bit weak: the missing child that is found. We've had Steven Stayner, Elizabeth Smart, and Jaycee Dugard, as well as those poor women kept captive for years by Ariel Castro. It's not something new, and through the invasive media we have an idea of how hard it is to adjust for these victims to be found and re-acclimated into their families. Emma Donohue's (fiction) book Room also went into the complexities of readjustment and shock and how happy endings are rare. So for this part, I felt like I would have been more impressed by some twist on the story we're hardly shocked by.

However, as the novel progresses, it becomes deeper. It takes into what we don't know, how families going through tragedy and despair do not remain static: change happens even when they feel their world has ended. They are constantly evolving through their crisis, just as their child is while in his situation. Sometimes we think time freezes in such a horrific time, but there are still groceries to buy, pets to be fed, laundry to do. And that's where this novel shines: getting to see the individual characters continue living (albeit with a broken heart) and trying to make sense of it all. And the guilt: the sense of responsibility as well as the guilt for ever feeling happy again. Johnston draws his characters so carefully you can actually picture them; you feel as if you know them. And along with knowing them, you anticipate what they will do. And may even get angry when they act the way you feel they shouldn't. See, I'm trying to avoid spoilers.

In avoiding spoilers, I have to say that these carefully crafted characters can be jerks too, and act completely insensitivity. Occasionally I yelled aloud at the characters, one in particular. Of course, there is no guidebook to the proper way to behave when a child goes missing or even when good fortune surprises us. And that is what makes this novel feel real. Shiny, happy people are only in REM songs. Resolution and closure are non-existent.

1 comment:

  1. Seems a bit to heavy for my tastes right now. I live in Cleveland so Castro and his menace and depravity hit a little too close to home.