Title: We Are Here
Author: Michael Marshall
No. of Pages: 448
Origins: Mulholland Books
Release Date: 25 February 2014
Bottom Line: Weird but in a good way, I think.
“It should’ve been the greatest day in David’s life. A trip to New York, wife by his side, to visit his new publisher. Finally it looks as though the gods of fate are going to lift him from schoolteacher to writer. But on his way back to Penn Station, a chance encounter changes all of that. David bumps into a stranger who covertly follows him, and then, just before they board the train home, passes him by close enough to whisper: “Remember me.”
The stranger follows them back to where they live, and it isn’t long before David realizes that this man wants something from him…something very personal, that he may have no choice but to surrender.”
Thoughts: The publisher’s synopsis of We Are Here overly simplifies the story. There is so much that occurs within its pages as well as a very large cast of characters to follow and keep separate. David and his wife are just two of the characters to interact with the stranger, and there are more than one stranger. To alleviate some of the confusion, Mr. Marshall devotes each chapter to one character and his or her point-of-view. This is helpful in filling in some rather large knowledge gaps so that by the time all of the stories converge into one, readers have a full understanding of just what is at stake for all of them. Unfortunately, the cast of characters is so large that it does not eliminate all of the issues in trying to remember everyone and everything that occurs.
The main question behind the entire novel revolves around the stranger and his fellow shadowy creatures, who or what they are, and what they want. Although there is a particular set of answers to those questions towards which Mr. Marshall tries to lead a reader, interestingly enough there is room for doubt and speculation. In the end, just who or what they are is completely at the mercy of a reader’s whim. To have the potential for various interpretations is a fascinating prospect and one of the more creative elements to We Are Here.
The story itself tends to jump around a lot, as one would expect with multiple narrators. Remembering who, what, where, why, and when for each chapter does become a bit of a chore, but Mr. Marshall balances that with an ever-tightening net around everyone and everything. Eventually, the stories begin to converge quite nicely, making it unnecessary for a reader to pause and think at the beginning of each chapter. The main plot is intriguing for its creativity and depth as well as the speed at which everything unfolds. It is not a story for multi-tasking readers, as one needs to pay close attention or else risks missing key scenes or essential reveals. In keeping with its esoteric plot and characters, the descriptions are minimalistic but effective. It’s an adequate novel with an unusual premise that will either turn off readers or compel them to continue reading.
I read this book when I was sick with some virus thing that kept me in a fog for about a week. I did not know I was in a fog at the time. I thought I was perfectly fine until I woke up one day and realized I did not remember much of the previous five days. While I remember the book, for the most part, it probably was not the best choice to read when not all mentally there. The stranger, and the others that appear to various characters throughout the novel, requires a bit more mental capacity to understand and accept than I was capable of using – something I now see only after I fully recovered. I still enjoyed the novel but my ongoing confusion at various elements of the story continues to cloud my long-term feelings for it. As it is not a book I particularly want to read again, We Are Here will forever be that book I read when I was sick and cannot decipher whether the WTF moments were all in my head or part of the story.