Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: 5 December 2017
“Jo Harding can’t remember the last year of her life. And her husband wants to keep it that way.
When Jo falls down the stairs at home, she wakes up in the hospital with partial amnesia. In fact, she finds that she’s lost an entire year of memories, and she can’t remember anything that happened the night she fell. Her husband and her two children assure her that everything’s fine, but Jo’s family seems to have gone through a lot of dramatic changes in the past year, and she can’t let go of the suspicion that there’s more they’re keeping from her.
As she pieces together the details of the past twelve months, it becomes more and more clear that her family wants her to stay in the dark–but why? Jo begins to wonder if she hasn’t been as good a wife and mother as she might have hoped . . . “
My Thoughts: There is not anything wrong with Amanda Reynold‘s Close to Me per se. It is exactly what it says it is after all — a domestic psychological story. It may not have much in the way of plot twists; in fact, there are no major surprises within the plot. In spite of that, Ms. Reynolds keeps the tension high through Jo’s increasing frustration and sense of wrongness. The plot kept me entertained enough to quickly read through the story, but I promptly set it aside upon finishing never to consider it again.
Except, now that I am finally getting around to writing a review, I find myself actually thinking about the story and the characters for the first time; I am not impressed with what I remember. For one, the story is old. Wife loses memory; significant other keeps secrets about those missing memories. Everything appears happy and healthy on the surface, but it does not take much scratching below that surface to uncover issues. I said there are no surprises, and there are literally no surprises. The secrets are exactly what you think they are, and the Jo’s accident happens just as you believe it does. Just as her husband plays with Jo’s memories, Ms. Reynolds plays with readers in an effort to make you doubt your guesses, but she does so halfheartedly with an end result that you never truly question yourself.
The characters themselves are just as despicable as befits any domestic thriller. Jo’s husband is needy and overly protective, so obvious in his lies and secrets that you wonder how Jo ever believes him. We do not learn enough about her children to ever form a solid opinion about them other than they go along with their father’s plans to hide the truth when they have no reason to do so. As for Jo, she is supposed to appear as this strong figure who takes things by the hand and sets out to uncover the truth. For me, all I see is her weakness. She is weak, and we repeatedly see this in the easy lies she so willingly accepts, in her inability to follow her instincts, in her shirking of holding people accountable for their actions. The length of time it takes her to finally start asking questions about her flashes of memory and the even longer time it takes her to accept the truth of what happened is disconcerting. There is no character development and nothing to differentiate them from the numerous other husbands and wives keeping secrets from each other. In the end, none of the characters are ones you want to support and with whom you want to sympathize. They all leave a bad taste.
When you get right down to it, Close to Me is one of those novels you sort of enjoy at the time of reading but does not hold up under the most rudimentary of scrutiny. While reading, the story is rather engrossing and sort of fun in a dark way as you read to uncover the secrets and determine how accurate your suppositions are. After reading, you realize how very flat a story it is, filled with all the tropes and with nothing in the way of creativity. To come to this realization only after finishing the novel is disappointing and yet at the same time you shrug and move on with your life. After all, your next book might just become your favorite book of all time so there is no need to dwell on what was not a stellar read.
Aah, those are the worst kinds of reads! As I was looking over your review, I couldn’t help but wonder why in the world the children would have gone along with these secrets, and how they would have managed to keep them well. It seems very contrived.
The author never really explains why the children go along with their father’s plan, which is even more troubling because you find out that the son hates his father and isn’t really speaking to him. So yeah, contrived.