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You Were Here by Gian Sardar
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You Were Here

by Gian Sardar

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You Were Here by Gian Sardar is a recommended atmospheric debut novel of suspense that follows two storylines in two time periods.

Abby Walter's is currently living in LA with her commitment-phobic boyfriend Robert. She hasn't returned home to Makade, the small Minnesota town she grew up in, for fourteen years. She had horrible recurring nightmares about being buried alive, among other things, and the nightmares stopped after she left. Now she has decided to visit her hometown for the upcoming high school reunion, but especially to research her family's past because the name Claire Ballantine has surfaced in her dreams. She thinks looking into the past may end her nightmares, which have returned with the news of the reunion. Abby's high school crush, Aidan Mackenzie, has also returned to Makade after working on the police force in St. Paul. He's a detective on the trail of a violent serial rapist.

The story set in 1948 focuses on a love triangle, or, really, an affair between a dashing, handsome older man and a younger woman who wants to escape her small town existence. Small town Eva is a young woman in love with William Ballantine, a privileged wealthy man who is married to Claire. William and Eva conduct their affair in Rochester. She takes the bus from her small town and meets him at a house he owns there. The two are in love or obsessed with each other, but William doesn't want to hurt Claire.

The slow moving duel plot eventually connects the two timelines, showing how the decisions made and secrets held in the past have consequences that can influence or affect the future. The secrets actually aren't all that shocking once you get to them because they are easily deduced much earlier in the novel.

The novel is beautifully written, almost poetic at times. The quality of the writing helps You Were Here rise above the numerous plot elements that are less-than-perfect. This isn't really a romance novel, more of an exploration of dark secrets. The romantic connection between Abby and Aidan seemed forced to me and served no real purpose in the plot. The affair between Eva and William has been seen many times before - an older successful man starts an affair with an attractive, desperate-to-escape younger woman.

The characters, for the most part, are well-developed, even if they are also at times a bit too melodramatic. It seems that most of the women in this novel are holding tightly to the role of victim and looking for a man to save them, which became annoying. Abby was the most developed of the characters, while Eva was perhaps the most sympathetic.

To be honest, I had a difficult time finishing this novel and flirted with stopping just before the half-way point. It just didn't seem worth my time. In the end I had to give credit to Sardar for pulling it all together and for the quality of the writing, which is what kept me reading and resulted in my recommendation. But, for followers of my reviews, there were no real surprises in the plot for me, as it all has been done before in one way or another, and the big, shocking twists were all very predictable. Other reviews seem to be more glowing, so it could be I am just the odd miss for the title. Literary fiction readers will appreciate the writing.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of the Penguin Publishing Group.
http://www.shetreadssoftly.com/2017/05/you-were-here.html
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2000962828 ( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | May 15, 2017 |
You Were Here tells multiple stories from many viewpoints across two timelines, one shortly after World War II and another in the present day. Then and now alternate. In the present, we have Abby who is a woman in waiting, waiting for her live-in lover Robert to finally sell a script so they can marry. She supposes she should be grateful he wants to prove himself before committing himself, but she wants to start her life, too. In Minnesota, there is Aidan, whose just moved back to his hometown, unnerved by a horrific case that continues to haunt him. Small town Minnesota should be a respite from the horrors of The Cities, except it seems no place is safe as there is a serial rapist terrorizing the community. So that is now.

Then, we had William, a successful, wealthy son of privilege who was married to the oh-so-appropriate Claire who loved him more than she should. He loved Eva, a small town girl who loves him back. This double life cannot continue indefinitely, but when they converge, things so terribly wrong. Claire seeks advice and guidance from her neighbor who just happens to have been Abby’s grandmother, connecting then and now through a ring Claire gave Edith before Claire mysteriously disappeared. Abby hopes learning what happened in the past will free her of her nightmares.

Complicating things, Aidan and Abby are falling in love. Will she let her commitment to Robert deter her from true love? Then and now, obligations and love collide.

I was intrigued and wanted to know what happened. You Were Here kept my interest from beginning to end. However, the women are all victims in one way or another, every last one of them except those we only see incidentally. Claire is haunted by nightmares, so is Abby. It’s not that they don’t have agency or pluck for that matter, but they are broken, either by mysterious dreams, fears and phobias, and abused, abandoned, or betrayed. Not one woman, except the stereotyped “popular” girl from high school, seems to have reached her majority unscathed.

The mystery in the here and now was fair. The one in the past is a horror. It seems so unnecessary. Eva was my favorite character in the entire book…and she did not deserve what happened to her. I know we are supposed to like Claire, too, but she felt so entitled to everything that I could not like her. As to the neighbor, Abby’s grandmother, working out her marital problems by “helping” the neighbor is the road to hell and paved with ill intentions.

I enjoy stories set in Minnesota and this had a good sense of place. The characters, though, we underdeveloped for the most part. Aidan is pretty much the stock romance hero, so we like him and are rooting for him, but he’s not that interesting. Abby is standard romance heroine of the old-fashioned sort, petite, seemingly fragile, haunted, full of fears and in need of rescuing. Eva would be like that, except she’s got pluck. I liked her a lot. That bit of pluck made her the most interesting person in the book. So yes, the book got me interested in their lives, but I felt like a story I have heard before, not in the details, not in any sense of taking from other works, but in the characters being so much part of the genre and not being quite enough of themselves.

You Were Here will be released on May 16th. I received an e-galley to preview from the publisher through NetGalley.

★★★
http://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2017/05/04/9780399575006/ ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | May 4, 2017 |
Rarely do I ever put a book down as a DNF but I just could not get into this one. There were a lot of names thrown out and it was hard to know which names would develop into characters the reader would get to be familiar with later. Typically, I enjoy books with parallel plots and that jump from past to present. However, there were so many characters introduced in both tenses that it came off as overwhelming to me. Furthermore, I did not care for one of the main characters in the present tense, Abby. I was not sure if she was supposed to have a panic disorder, anxiety, or if her tragic theatrics are what attracted the attention of her boyfriend, a screenwriter looking for his big break. The meltdown that Abby has at a restaurant, where she just got into her hometown that she hadn't been to in a long time, with her mother and her mother's best friend about a potential serial rapist in town was what made me put the book down for good. Maybe it's because I'm a city girl and her hometown was small suburb of Minneapolis, and therefore she might have been in imminent danger. But it just did not connect for me nor did it seem realistic.

DNF at 28%, maybe some time away from the book will allow me to come back and pick it up again.

Please Note: an electronic copy of this book was generously provided for free from Penguin Random House's First To Read Program in exchange for an honest review.

Please also note: for readers who may be triggered or offended, there were mentions of infidelity, sexual harrassment, incest, violence, murder, and rape. ( )
  JanJanFreeman | May 2, 2017 |
Abby Walters is afraid to sleep. She has been plagued with reoccurring, horrific, and very realistic nightmares of being buried alive. Thankfully, she had not had them since she left home fourteen years ago…until now. At the age of thirty-three, the nightmares are back, and they are worse than ever. Abby decides that it is time to return home, to Minnesota, to see if she can find out the reason for these nightmares. At the same time, she is reunited with Aidan, the boy on whom she had a crush in high school. Because he is now a police detective, maybe he can help her figure this out.

In this well-written book, our author tells her story by alternating between telling a story from the past and then the story about Abby. This is an effective way to tell a story whose plot is dependent upon and interwoven with its past. In this way, the author feeds us a little information at a time, taunting us with two very enticing mysteries, one in the present and one in the past, making it nearly impossible for the reader to put down the book. Our author’s characters are realistic, and I found I could relate to them. I was captivated by the vivid and unforgettable imagery created by this talented author. There are lots of unexpected twist and turns, too. Just a warning: this one might keep you up too late.

I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. ( )
  Sandralovesbooks | May 2, 2017 |
This was a fantastic mystery that kept me turning pages well into the night to find out how the story would end. The first 50 pages or so were kind of slow but keep on reading because once things start to happen, you won't want to put it down.

The story is told in two time periods. The modern story is Abby's. Abby lives in LA and keeps having the same dream that she's had for years but this time she hears a name in her dream and when her mother knew of the person that she dreamed about she decided that she needs to go home to Minnesota for the first time in years to try to find out what was causing her dreams. While she is home, she meets one of the first boys that she had a crush on. He is now a police detective working on the case of a serial rapist in their town. So Abby's story is all about her dreams and her history and the case of the serial rapist. Her grandmother's story takes in her best friend, whose husband is having an affair and plans to leave her. The author did a fantastic job of interweaving these two time lines and two plots and her characters are great.

I really enjoyed this novel - there was a lot of mystery, a major bad guy and a bit of romance - how can you go wrong? ( )
  susan0316 | Apr 24, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0399575006, Hardcover)

Readers of Kate Atkinson will delight in this suspenseful and romantic debut novel about a woman haunted by nightmares and her grandmother's role in a doomed love triangle almost seventy years before.
 
Death, accidental and early, has always been Abby Walters's preoccupation. Now thirty-three and eager to settle down with her commitment-shy boyfriend, a recurring dream from her past returns: a paralyzing nightmare of being buried alive, the taste of dirt in her mouth cloying and real. But this time the dream reveals a name from her family's past. Looking for answers, Abby returns home to small-town Minnesota for the first time in fourteen years, where she reconnects with her high school crush, now a police detective on the trail of a violent criminal. When Abby tries on her grandmother's mesmerizing diamond ring, a ring she always dreamed would be hers, she discovers a cryptic note long hidden beneath the box's velvet lining. What secret was her grandmother hiding? And could this be the key to what's haunting Abby? As she begins to uncover the traces of a love triangle gone shockingly wrong nearly seventy years before, we, too, see that the layers of our lives may echo a past we’ve never known.

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 29 Nov 2016 18:52:22 -0500)

"Readers of Kate Atkinson will delight in this suspenseful and romantic debut novel about a woman haunted by nightmares and her grandmother's role in a doomed love triangle almost seventy years before. Death, accidental and early, has always been Abby Walters's preoccupation. Now thirty-three and eager to settle down with her commitment-shy boyfriend, a recurring dream from her past returns: a paralyzing nightmare of being buried alive, the taste of dirt in her mouth cloying and real. But this time the dream reveals a name from her family's past. Looking for answers, Abby returns home to small-town Minnesota for the first time in fourteen years, where she reconnects with her high school crush, now a police detective on the trail of a violent criminal. When Abby tries on her grandmother's mesmerizing diamond ring, a ring she always dreamed would be hers, she discovers a cryptic note long hidden beneath the box's velvet lining. What secret was her grandmother hiding? And could this be the key to what's haunting Abby? As she begins to uncover the traces of a love triangle gone shockingly wrong nearly seventy years before, we, too, see that the layers of our lives may echo a past we've never known"--… (more)

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