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Remember Me Like This by Bret Anthony…

Remember Me Like This (2014)

by Bret Anthony Johnston

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3354532,882 (3.82)22



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Engrossing from the onset, this is the story of Justin, a boy who was abducted and eventually found after four long years with his captor. It is a chronicle of the day-to-day, year-to-year agony that his family endured until he was returned. It is every parent's worst nightmare, and yet there is even more for them to endure when the "alleged" perpetrator is bailed out and lives in their community. It is told from different perspectives, which include his parents, his younger brother and his grandfather. The brief glimpses of the horrors that Justin endured just miles from his family home during their desperate search are harrowing. The family's pain during his captivity is palpable, as is their joy at being reunited with him. The resolution is appropriate for the family's healing.

It would be the answer to many fervent prayers if these abductions were happening only in fiction and not in real life. ( )
  pdebolt | Jan 5, 2017 |
This is such a great book. It moves slowly at times, but while doing so it's developing characters and introducing you to the lives of 'normal' people who have experienced a tremendous loss. A child who was kidnapped four years ago, against all odds, is found and returns to his family. Although the mother, father, grandfather, and other sibling had all struggled in different ways after his disappearance, the subsequent changes in the intra-family dynamics as they integrate the 'new' son back into their lives is fascinating.

What made the book so interesting to me were the unasked questions that seemed to be floating around. Where was the boy all that time? What happened to him while he was being held captive? Who was the kidnapper? What will happen to him? Will there be some sort of retaliation by the family? The questions are eventually asked at their own pace and answers are provided, but to me that's what propelled me to become totally involved in this novel and to finish it in a (long) sitting.

Although I'm a voracious consumer of spy novels, thrillers, police procedurals, and other relatively fast-paced types of fiction, I'll occasionally step outside to read a book like this. I can't praise Remember Me Like This enough. It's well-written, characters are developed and you care about them, the story is interesting and believable, and you just know that suspense is building for some sort of solid ending, which does indeed occur. I loved it! ( )
  gmmartz | Jun 21, 2016 |
From Amazon:

A gripping novel with the pace of a thriller but the nuanced characterization and deep empathy of some of the literary canon’s most beloved novels, Remember Me Like This introduces Bret Anthony Johnston as one of the most gifted storytellers writing today. With his sophisticated and emotionally taut plot and his shimmering prose, Johnston reveals that only in caring for one another can we save ourselves.

Four years have passed since Justin Campbell’s disappearance, a tragedy that rocked the small town of Southport, Texas. Did he run away? Was he kidnapped? Did he drown in the bay? As the Campbells search for answers, they struggle to hold what’s left of their family together.

Then, one afternoon, the impossible happens. The police call to report that Justin has been found only miles away, in the neighboring town, and, most important, he appears to be fine. Though the reunion is a miracle, Justin’s homecoming exposes the deep rifts that have diminished his family, the wounds they all carry that may never fully heal. Trying to return to normal, his parents do their best to ease Justin back into his old life. But as thick summer heat takes hold, violent storms churn in the Gulf and in the Campbells’ hearts. When a reversal of fortune lays bare the family’s greatest fears—and offers perhaps the only hope for recovery—each of them must fight to keep the ties that bind them from permanently tearing apart.

My Thoughts:

The story actually begins when Justin Campbell is found after 4 years of abduction. This book focuses on the fallout an event like this has on the family and the community, in this case a small Texas town near Corpus Christi. Each member of the family reacts differently to Justin's return and each is more interesting than the next. I really got frustrated with Laura, the mother's, reactions. This book has a plot that draws the reader in, but the author spends way too much time on details that tends to drag the story down at times. Is it in my top 10 favorites? No. Is it worth your time to read? Absolutely.
( )
  Carol420 | May 31, 2016 |
Fast read and a bit of a page turner--which is somewhat surprising, given that the victim kidnapped in the book is recovered rapidly. Does a great job of illustrating how the loss of a family member under terrible circumstances sends shock waves throughout a family. ( )
  Gary10 | May 1, 2016 |
Remember Me Like This by Bret Anthony Johnston is a highly recommended novel about a family in crisis.

Justin Campbell disappeared 4 years ago at age 11 in southern Texas. Since that time the Campbell family (parents Eric and Laura, grandfather Cecil, and younger brother Griffin) has been coasting, and slowly disintegrating under their stress and grief. They have become alienated from each other and themselves. Eric has been lying about his actions and having an affair. Laura has been working at a dry cleaners and putting in many hours volunteering at a local aquarium and tending a sick dolphin. Griffin is now 14 with his first girlfriend.

Everyone knew what they had endured, and what they had lost. "More and more Eric had the sorry sense that he and Laura were both just treading water, trying to stay afloat until Griff graduated high school. A good husband. A good father. He only knew he’d filled those roles at one time, though he could hardly recall it now." (Location 250)
Cecil is more taciturn about his emotions "This was another thing he’d learned over the years: Sometimes a man’s obligation was to tell his family what he knew of life, but more often his duty was to keep it to himself." (Location 479)

Then, miraculously, Justin is found in nearby Corpus Christi. The family must rally together to help him recover, but this requires that they confront their own issues. By all outward appearances Justin seems fine and doesn't talk about his four year ordeal but he is clearly suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. Clearly, the family’s development is arrested, too. Meanwhile his abductor, Dwight Harrell, is charged and released on bond, which sends the individuals in the family into a tail spin.

This is a capable and well-crafted debut novel by Johnston. He explores the themes of family bonds and guilt in a family that must either rebuild their lives and connections or find a new way to live in their fractured current state of existence. He allows much of the inner turmoil of some of the family members to boil and bubble over as they contemplate their next moves.

While I enjoyed Remember Me Like This quite a bit, I had a few problems with it. Opening with Eric's affair was an immediate turn-off for me. I comprehend the implications of his actions, but it didn't need to be thrust to the forefront of the beginning of the novel. Then, after Justin comes home it seemed like there was just endless inner dialogue going on. I guess I was expecting more outward sharing and more exposure of the events that happened and how Justin could be healed along with the family.

If you like slow moving family dramas with lots of emotional inner contemplation/monologues from family members then this is a good choice for you. It's well written which should help your enjoyment enormously.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Random House for review purposes.

( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
There is one word that sums up this book for me; overwrought. The author knows his craft and can turn out good prose. The problem is that he does so about the same thing over and over again. Every emotion, every thought is described at length. It got to the point where I read the dialogue and about the first two sentences of each paragraph and skipped the rest because that was the only way I could get through this.

I am familiar with this kind of writing because I attended the U of Iowa and I took classes with a lot of the Workshop writers. I read a story that got a writer into the Workshop (no easy feat). It was a 23-page story about two minutes in someone's life. Reading it was like watching a soap opera. Or watching paint dry. This book reminded me of that. For me, it's about the suspension of disbelief. I live in a book while I am reading it and I can't do that when I am annoyed and distracted by a writer's attempt to make every sentence a present wrapped up in a pretty bow at the expense of the story.

As I said, the author knows how to turn out a nice phrase. I even like his characters and the story is good. But he beats the reader into submission with the sheer volume of expostulation. I really wanted to like this book, but I absolutely did not.
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Well, when one has no one, nowhere else one can go.
- - Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment
I've lain with the devil
Cursed God above
Forsaken heaven
To bring you my love
- - PJ Harvey, "To Bring You My Love"
For Jay Anthony and Donna Leah Johnston. I remember.
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The harbor bridge crossed over the Port of Corpus Christi.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
The Campbell family tries to return their life back to normal after their son Justin, who had been missing for four years, is found and comes home.
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Four years after Justin Campbell's disappearance left his family in a state of perpetual denial and sent them to their own personal dream worlds to cope with the loss, Justin's return and the aftermath of the horrors he endured shake him and his family to their very core as they struggle to find the happy ending they all thought Justin's return might give them.Four years have passed since Justin Campbell's disappearance, a tragedy that rocked the small town of Southport, Texas. Did he run away? Was he kidnapped? Did he drown in the bay? Then, one afternoon, the impossible happens. The police call to report that Justin has been found only miles away, in the neighboring town, and, most important, he appears to be fine. Though the reunion is a miracle, Justin's homecoming exposes the deep rifts that have diminished his family, the wounds they all carry that may never fully heal.… (more)

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