Book Review: 'Remember Me Like This'

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bret Anthony Johnston. Random House, 364 pp. $26

Bret Anthony Johnston's most recent novel, "Remember Me Like This," is an interesting hybrid of books. From one angle, it's a thriller novel, as a family searches for the man who kidnapped their young son four years ago and the secrets their son carries with him of the time he spent with his kidnapper. From another angle, "Remember Me Like This" is a family drama. Every member of the Campbell family, from the grandfather, Cecil, to the younger brother, Griffin, handles tragedy and grief in a different way.

Four years ago Justin Campbell disappeared from his town of Southport, Texas, and the entire town searched for him and grieved when he could not be found. Suddenly, he's found only a few miles away, and he re-enters his family while the police search for the suspected kidnapper.

Though they are finally reunited, however, moving forward as a family of four once again is more difficult than any of the Campbells anticipated. Everyone has grown older and had new experiences without the others' involvement. In addition, Justin won't talk much with his family about his last four years. All they know is that he'd changed.

Thriller novels are touch-and-go with me. Some mysteries are engaging and driven; some are a either sensationalized or slow. But I liked that "Remember Me Like This" had the family dynamics. Through the writing and character development, Johnston made me care deeply about the Campbell family. I wanted to know what would happen to them; I wanted them to be okay.

This is a novel about the aftermath of every parent's worst nightmare. But, even so, this is a novel about how individual members of a family handle tragedy differently, and about the healing that eventually comes with time and with the support of loved ones.

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