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I Found You by Lisa Jewell

BOTTOM LINE: I found myself unable to stop reading it and remain impressed with how well Ms. Jewell is able to make us care about her characters.

Genre: Suspense & Thriller
Publication Date: 25 April 2017
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“In the windswept British seaside town of Ridinghouse Bay, single mom Alice Lake finds a man sitting on a beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, and no idea how he got there. Against her better judgment, she invites him inside.

Meanwhile, in a suburb of London, newlywed Lily Monrose grows anxious when her husband fails to return home from work one night. Soon, she receives even worse news: according to the police, the man she married never even existed.

Twenty-three years earlier, Gray and Kirsty Ross are teenagers on a summer holiday with their parents. The annual trip to Ridinghouse Bay is uneventful, until an enigmatic young man starts paying extra attention to Kirsty. Something about him makes Gray uncomfortable—and it’s not just because he’s a protective older brother.

Who is the man on the beach? Where is Lily’s missing husband? And what ever happened to the man who made such a lasting and disturbing impression on Gray?”

My Thoughts: I Found You is not a perfect novel. In fact, it has many flaws, some of which should be enough to turn Lisa Jewell‘s latest novel into a dud. A funny thing happens while reading the story though. You get so caught up in the identity of the amnesiac, in the fate of Lily’s missing husband, in Gray’s growing concern about the man courting his sister that you forget the flaws and enjoy the story. This does not happen often, but when it does you remember once again that sometimes a book is more than just the sum of its parts. Such is the case with I Found You.

One cannot deny the faults that exist within I Found You, one of which revolves around one of the main characters. Simply, Lily Monrose is not an enjoyable character. There is a difference between an unlikable character and an enjoyable one. A character can be wholly unlikable – a mass murderer, a pedophile, a true villain – but can still be an enjoyable character. In fact, you might argue that often, the villains are the characters you enjoy the most. You do not like them because they are deplorable, but you find them compelling. An unenjoyable character is one about whom you cannot stand to read. He or she might not be a bad person, but there is something about him that annoys you to the point where you take no interest in their story. Lily Monrose is an unenjoyable character.

She should be a fairly sympathetic character. After all, she is a newlywed as well as a new immigrant to the United Kingdom. She has no family or friends she can lean on for support. Her knowledge of the English language is decent but not good enough to manage the nuances of a police investigation. Her plight should be enough to generate more than a little interest in readers. Yet, she is not sympathetic. She is harsh and off-putting. Her conversations with others are abrupt and strident, and you do not want to help her so much as you just want her to go back to Kiev and leave well enough alone. While I can see her behavior is supposed to show how strong she is, she comes across as a bit of a bully. I quickly found myself almost disgusted by her attitude and actions and had to skim those sections in which she is prominent.

The other major fault of the story is the fact that I figured out the various mysteries well in advance. I knew the amnesiac’s identity well before he started remembering things, and I knew what had happened with Lily’s husband. The reveals were not surprises to me so much as they were confirmations of things I had deduced many pages earlier. I was so confident that I knew how it ended that I noticed every red herring and clue Ms. Jewell had in the story. In other novels, being able to predict the ending is a deal breaker. After all, when it comes to mysteries and suspense novels, the unwritten understanding between reader and author is that the mystery will be difficult to solve unless you can find all of the clues and that the clues will be almost impossible to find. This is not the case with I Found You.

Either one of these issues are major enough that they should have been enough to turn me off of the story. Instead, I found myself not caring in the least. While I did have to skim those scenes during which Lily is the primary character, her presence ended up being little more than a minor distraction. As annoying as she is, it is the questions and clues she uncovers that are essential, and once you realize that, it is easy to ignore her. As for the predictability of the story, I found it to be a nonissue. I was having so much fun watching Alice live her life, watching the amnesiac struggle to remember, and watching Gray grow more protective of his little sister that I simply did not care whether I knew how it ended or not. The story swept me along, and while I never was completely immersed in it, I was nonetheless able to enjoy the ride.

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