Wednesday, July 20, 2016

WHEN I'M GONE by Emily Bleeker

I read this book for book club, and I raced through it, just so that I could move on to something that I really wanted to read.  As a result, I didn’t suffer for very long, and, honestly, it could have been worse.  The writing wasn’t stellar, but then it wasn’t intolerable, either.  The premise is that Natalie dies of cancer but arranges to have letters sent to her husband Luke after her death.  Luke soon learns that Natalie has kept him in the dark about aspects of her past, and he, with some help from Natalie’s best friend Annie, sets out to untangle these secrets.  Annie is a character who comes across as alternately manipulative and wimpy, but then Natalie doesn’t fare much better.  As he gathers clues, Luke vacillates between anger at Natalie for her deceits and boundless grief over having lost her too soon.  The author throws in a good bit of conversation about the afterlife, or lack thereof, and I found this particular debate annoying.  I felt as though the author were trying to appease both believers and non-believers, and I really don’t like this sort of fainthearted fence-straddling.  Take a side, for crying out loud!  The author goes to some effort to keep the reader guessing, with quite a convoluted plot, full of red herrings and a few predictable outcomes.  However, there’s no real substance here—no redemption, no lessons learned, no self-help advice, and certainly no humor.   It’s basically just the unfolding of a mystery in a gimmick-y manner.  In fact, it’s as though Natalie wrote her own eulogy, full of confessions and advice for her bereaved husband, and then dragged it out for a few months.

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