Book review: ‘Remember Me Like This’ by Bret Anthony Johnston

“Years later, he would remember very little about that afternoon.”   – Bret Anthony Johnston, ‘Remember Me Like This’

Genre: Difficult to place, but I would say family saga/crime/contemporary fiction.

Publisher: Random House New York, 2014

Author Fact: Bret Anthony Johnston is the Director of Creative Writing at Harvard University. His short stories have appeared in numerous publications. Remember Me Like This is his first novel and is currently being made into a film.


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The story: When 11-year-old Justin vanishes from his small, Texan hometown, his family become increasingly isolated from each other and the world around them as the police fail to find any real leads. The novel opens four years after Justin’s disappearance. His mother Laura has withdrawn from the world, volunteering nights with a rescue dolphin at the local marine lab. Her husband Eric seeks solace in another woman’s bed while their younger son Griff stumbles through school, picking fights with his classmates.

It’s at this point that Eric receives a phone call from the police. Justin, now a teenager, has been found. The euphoria of their reunion is quickly overshadowed by the revelation that Justin and his kidnapper were in a neighbouring town all along.

Remember Me Like This follows the Campbell family’s attempt to claim back their lost years and explores the extent to which trauma can truly be overcome.

Why read it: I wouldn’t call this novel a thriller, but I was impressed with how Johnston creates ongoing suspense by withholding information. The family are advised not to question Justin about his ordeal until he is ready to talk, but what they hide from each other is equally intriguing. Johnston’s viewpoint characters cover both sexes and three generations, yet they are all convincing, portrayed with great sensitivity and psychological realism. This is an extraordinary story with wide appeal.

More information:

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