You Were Here by Gian Sardar
Penguin Publishing Group: 5/16/17
eBook review copy; 384 pages
You Were Here by Gian Sardar
is a recommended atmospheric debut novel of suspense that follows two storylines in two time periods.
Abby Walter's is currently living in LA with her commitment-phobic
boyfriend Robert. She hasn't returned home to Makade, the small
Minnesota town she grew up in, for fourteen years. She had horrible
recurring nightmares about being buried alive, among other things, and
the nightmares stopped after she left. Now she has decided to visit her
hometown for the upcoming high school reunion, but especially to
research her family's past because the name Claire Ballantine has
surfaced in her dreams. She thinks looking into the past may end her
nightmares, which have returned with the news of the reunion. Abby's
high school crush, Aidan Mackenzie, has also returned to Makade after
working on the police force in St. Paul. He's a detective on the
trail of a violent serial rapist.
The story set in 1948 focuses on a love triangle, or, really, an affair
between a dashing, handsome older man and a younger woman who wants to
escape her small town existence. Small town Eva is a young woman in love
with William Ballantine, a privileged wealthy man who is married to
Claire. William and Eva conduct their affair in Rochester. She takes the
bus from her small town and meets him at a house he owns there. The two
are in love or obsessed with each other, but William doesn't want to
The slow moving duel plot eventually connects the two timelines, showing
how the decisions made and secrets held in the past have consequences
that can influence or affect the future. The secrets actually aren't all
that shocking once you get to them because they are easily deduced much earlier in the novel.
The novel is beautifully written, almost poetic at times. The quality of the writing helps You Were Here
rise above the numerous plot elements that are less-than-perfect. This
isn't really a romance novel, more of an exploration of dark secrets.
The romantic connection between Abby and Aidan seemed forced to me and
served no real purpose in the plot. The affair between Eva and William
has been seen many times before - an older successful man starts an
affair with an attractive, desperate-to-escape younger woman.
The characters, for the most part, are well-developed, even if they are
also at times a bit too melodramatic. It seems that most of the women in
this novel are holding tightly to the role of victim and looking for a
man to save them, which became annoying. Abby was the most developed of
the characters, while Eva was perhaps the most sympathetic.
To be honest, I had a difficult time finishing this novel and flirted
with stopping just before the half-way point. It just didn't seem worth
my time. In the end I had to give credit to Sardar for pulling it all
together and for the quality of the writing, which is what kept me
reading and resulted in my recommendation. But, for followers of my
reviews, there were no real surprises in the plot for me, as it all has
been done before in one way or another, and the big, shocking twists
were all very predictable. Other reviews seem to be more glowing, so it
could be I am just the odd miss for the title. Literary fiction readers
will appreciate the writing.
My review copy was courtesy of the Penguin Publishing Group.
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