Monday, February 25, 2013
Connected in ways they cannot begin to imagine, their stories converge in a violent climax that reveals not just the mystery of what happened to Ronnie but all of their secret selves. -- Touchstone
THE NEXT TIME YOU SEE ME by Holly Goddard Jones is exactly the type of book I love -- part mystery, part Southern fiction, and part literary fiction. All in all, I'd have to say it was a fantastic read and one that I will be thinking (and talking) about for some time.
THE NEXT TIME YOU SEE ME is an intriguing novel about a small Kentucky town, the disappearance of a woman, and the effects it has on a few of the town's residents. At the heart of this novel is the disappearance of Ronnie Eastman, a woman who parties hard and lives life to the fullest; however, the true beauty of this book is how it explores the hearts and minds of a few of the town's lonelier people.
The story is told in alternating chapters about various characters including Susanna, Ronnie's sister who is frustrated with her marriage; Tony, the high school baseball hero who is now a cop; Emily, a thirteen year old girl who doesn't fit in with her peers; and Wyatt, a factory worker who has a lot of past baggage and guilt. All of these characters' stories come together, in what seems like effortless writing, through the search for and eventual discovery of Ronnie's body.
THE NEXT TIME YOU SEE me really rocked my world! I am always up for an interesting mystery, and truthfully, that's all I expected from this novel -- a well-executed mystery, albeit a very well written one! What absolutely delighted me about this book is that it read more like literary fiction than a mystery, and I found myself getting caught up in these characters' thoughts and actions. True, all of the characters in this novel were suffering in one way or another (physically and mentally), and many times they all seemed hopelessly lost; however, I was drawn to their lives in an almost desperate way. I had to read not only to uncover who murdered Ronnie, but also to see if any of these characters' would find some sort of happiness or contentment.
I don't even know if I can express just how talented Ms. Jones is. I loved her writing style -- from the character development, to the pacing of the story, to the prose and dialogue. However, I think what impressed me the most about this novel is how it made me think and feel. I loved that this novel was about more than than just the mystery of a missing woman. It explored some pretty hard hitting themes including loneliness, bullying, racism, and happiness. In addition, these characters got under my skin (in a good way) and made me truly care about what happened to them. There were times when I was reading this novel that I didn't even think about who committed the murder and why; and personally, I found it strange (again, in a good way) that I was able to to become so involved in the other aspects of the story.
Needless to say, THE NEXT TIME YOU SEE ME would make an excellent book club selection! There is a reading guide available with eleven discussion questions as well as some ideas to enhance your book club experience. I've mentioned some of the topics you might want to explore, but here are a few more: self doubt, forgiveness, blame, sympathy, adultery, memories, and the dark side of human nature. I can assure you that the various characters in this novel are fascinating and worthy of hours of discussion.
THE NEXT TIME YOU SEE ME is a terrific debut novel from a very talented author. Highly recommended.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.
Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.