Powerful, painful and raw. A superb read.
Remember Me Like This
Bret Anthony Johnston
Hodder & Stoughton
Since Justin Campbell’s disappearance four years ago, his family has been stuck in the grooves of grief, unable to save themselves let alone one another. His mother drives an hour each way to spend time rehabbing dolphins. His father has been having an affair. And his younger brother Griff just spends day after day skateboarding in the empty pool at the deserted motel.
And then the call from the police. Justin has been found and he is okay. Though missing for so long, he’s only been held across the bay in Corpus Christi, Texas, less than 30 miles away. It is a miracle.
But instead of righting the imbalances within this struggling family, Justin’s return only lays bare the effects of his trauma, threatening to snap the last threads that bind the Campbells to one another. As Justin’s kidnapper is set to be charged for his crime and the town of Southport prepares to welcome back the missing boy at the annual summer festival, pressure (barometric and other) builds and resolves in a spectacular denouement.
This narrative opens with a great hook – the discovery of a body on the very first page plants an image and a scenario that stays with you while you journey through this story and what a story this is! It is quietly spoken, honestly written and so so powerful. This is a superb character study of pain and hurt and grief and love. Johnston explores the intimate reactions to every parent’s worst nightmare – the taking of a child.
This novel is so simply written, so personal; it peeks into the life of a family in chaos, their emotions strung tight and fraying around the edges, ready to snap. It explores grief and guilt and family dynamics under strain; the fissures are wide and gaping, the hurt bleeds through the pages. How does anyone survive this type of trauma? How do you move past the damage to reconstruct your family when the missing returns? And how does the victim survive the damage inflicted upon him? This is such a painful yet powerful expression of emotions that lay bare to an internal struggle that defies you to put yourself in this position and question how you would react.
I loved this writing – it concentrates on the reactions of the family and the victim and does not give a voice or power to the abuser; a wonderfully fresh perspective. And the ending is guaranteed to surprise. I look forward to reading more by this author.