Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book Review: "Remember Me Like This" by Bret Anthony Johnson

In the small town of Southport, Texas, the Campbells seemed like the perfect family. But one afternoon, their 11-year-old son Justin mysteriously disappears. Four years pass without any tangible clues, or any idea what happened to him.

The uncertainty takes its toll on Laura and Eric, both of whom find very different ways of trying to cope with this loss. Their younger son, Griffin, who fought with Justin earlier in the day he disappeared, is also struggling with guilt and uncertainty. They still hold out hope that they'll find Justin, or at least understand what happened, and they're not quite ready to move on.

"That was the inconceivable and debilitating shock: You could grow accustomed to what had once seemed so miserable and alien. You could feel a foreign presence in your body, endure the pain and deep threat of it, and not notice as it turned to bone."

After four years of false leads and shaky optimism, Laura and Eric get a call one day from the police. Justin has been found—alive—in nearby Corpus Christi, and he appears to be fine. Strangely, he had been nearby all along and they never knew it. Buoyed by this unbelievable turn of events, they are excited for their lives to get back to the way they once were. Yet amidst all the happiness comes uncertainty and fear—can Justin cope with what happened to him? Is he angry at his parents for not being able to find him? Will he be able to get on with his life and progress normally, or will he be damaged by his experiences? And how will the rest of them truly be happy and relax knowing that in a split second, everything can change?

"Really, once the worst happens, it's always happening. It's never not happening."

Bret Anthony Johnson's Remember Me Like This is a beautifully written, moving book about coping with tragedy and coping with happiness, how both force us to remain on edge. It's a book about whether to face and give voice to our fears, or keep them bottled inside. It's also a book about the fragility of love and the strength of family, and how it forces you to do things you might never imagine.

I really enjoyed this and thought it was tremendously compelling. At times I worried where the book would go, but Johnson did an excellent job slowly unfolding the plot and getting me fully enmeshed in this family and their story. It may be a little difficult for some to read given the subject matter, but it's not really a heavy, emotional book. It's just a pretty excellent one.

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