First, thanks for the good wishes after the flying debris episode yesterday. I still have a mighty headache and a sore neck, but I’m staying home from work, taking ibuprofen, and have a convenient chiropractor appointment already scheduled for tomorrow. I’m not supposed to be looking at screens, so I am typing but not looking up except to fix typos. I am apparently driven to type!
Bret Anthony Johnston is apparently very familiar with the Corpus Christi/Port Aransas area of southern Texas, which made his 2014 book, Remember Me Like This, a lot of fun for me. I used to go to the area every year with friends from my old church, until our Most Toxic Member Ever’s kid broke something and they refused to pay for it. I digress, again.
I’m glad the neighborhood book club chose this one, because it was not too gory or triggering for me (I m not fond of the “tiggering” thing, but that’s what happened in the last book, There There; I got sick to my stomach and could not read any further, even though I’d found it interesting up to then).
If I could pick my favorite thing about Johnston’s writing style, it would have to be the way he indicates the passage of time by describing what is going on in the area, moment by moment, giving you the feeling like you’re right there:
Past the pawnshop, traffic was worse than earlier. A winding line of cars, stalled by construction and ferry delays, snaked down Station Street. Two cops in dark blue uniforms waved drivers through the detours and then stopped traffic when groups of tourists pushed into the crosswalks on their way to the beach. The high school band had stopped practicing, but the other sounds still hung in the air: swinging hammers, table saws, the steady beeping of a truck in reverse.pages 309-10
He really conjures up a sense of time and space, plus the sentence structure is relentless, driving the reader forward through time. Thing X does Y. Thing Z does A. On and on. Then someone breaks in with their thoughts. I really liked zoning out and picturing the area in my head, smelling the smells, and feeling the sand that’s everywhere.
This is another novel that does different chapters from the perspective of different characters (well developed, human, and people whose flaws you can empathize with).
The whole book centers around a boy (Justin) who is kidnapped, disappears for four years, then returns. He is the only character whose perspective you do NOT get to experience the story from. There are a few hints of what went on while he was gone, but you never get a lot of details, and you never hear from his perspective how these events affected him. Well, you never get an idea of what was going on in the kidnapper’s mind, either.
On the other hand, you become very familiar with how the Justin’s parents, brother, and grandfather were affected. I found that really interesting, because they are all and I found myself wishing for a sequel written after Justin reaches adulthood and is coping with how those four years have affected him. Another book I’d like to read is Justin: The Lost Years, about how the bad guy hid him, what they did during all that time, and how he coped.
Obviously I liked everyone in the book. My favorite character was probably Rainbow, the dog. She just kept plodding in and out of scenes, as a little reminder of normality. I was also most fond of Fiona, the girlfriend of Justin’s brother, who reminded me a lot of young Suna.
About the physical book
I like to read hardbacks, and since this book’s a few years old, I had to get it from an Amazon reseller. The book was sold as new and arrived in good condition. I was surprised to find hiding in the book a piece of newsprint. Hmm! How nice of someone!
Imagine my delight when I saw that a New York Times Book Review article on this book by Eleanor Henderson was hiding in there! Thank you, previous owner or bookseller. As you can see, I found the link to it, but you have to sign in to read it.
I didn’t read the review until after I wrote all my thoughts down, which was difficult, because it was my bookmark. When I did read it, I was pleased to see that Henderson also addressed the lack of Justin’s perspective and some other things I’d fleetingly thought about.
What I liked best, though was how she praised Johnston for NOT sharing all those lurid kidnapping details and instead concentrating on the family’s perspective. She said:
In a sea of novelists praised as “unflinching,” Johnston chooses, humanely, to flinch.“The Search Continues, by Eleanor Henderson, New York Times Book Review, August 10, 2014, p. 19.
She goes on to conclude that this book isn’t a novel about a kidnapping, study of Stockholm syndrome, a “victimology,” or a thriller. She said it isn’t even a mystery unless it’s unsolved:
…the exquisitely moral mystery of how we struggle to accept and love the people we call family, even when we can’t fully know them.
Lesson learned. See if you can put this book down once you start reading it!