When thirteen year old Emily, a social outcast who is being ignored at home due to her parents having to care for her mentally handicapped brother, stumbles upon a dead body in the woods she decides to keep the news to herself and continues to return.
Mixed in with the story of Emily, the troubled youth, there is also the story of Susanna, who is a teacher.
Upon discovering that her sister, Ronnie—the alcoholic, drug addled black sheep of the family—has disappeared, Susanna realizes that her marriage isn’t as solid as it seemed. While trying to find her sister, she enters into a relationship with Tony, a failed baseball player turned detective, who she went to high school with.
Last but not least, there is Wyatt, who is close to retiring and harassed by his fellow employees because he has never found love.
I was expecting this book to be more of a thriller, perhaps even a physiological thriller, but it was more of a character study so I would classify pure literary fiction with a side order of murder.
Although the mystery is there, if not pushed into the background, the novel focuses heavily on the disappointments and disillusions of the characters’ lives lending a feeling gloom and depression that settles over the book right until the end. Each chapter the novel shifts point of views, which gave the novel a layered feeling.
While the novel is well-written, it suffers from a slow—almost stationary—plot. It almost felt as though the author was so focused on conveying the misery of the characters that she allowed the flow of the plot to suffer. And when the murderer is revealed, due to the way the author established the characters, I was surprised or shocked.
The Next Time You See Me is Holly Goddard Jones’ debut novel that is a character study of people in a small town mixed with a touch or murder and a whole lot of misery.
“The lonely cast of outcasts in The Next Time You See Me has enough heartache for a whole jukebox full of country songs. Holly Goddard Jones spins a tight if heartbreaking tale, always keeping the reader leaning forward.” —Stewart O’Nan, author of Songs for the Missing
In The Next Time You See Me, the disappearance of one woman, the hard-drinking and unpredictable Ronnie Eastman, reveals the ambitions, prejudices, and anxieties of a small southern town and its residents. There’s Ronnie’s sister Susanna, a dutiful but dissatisfied schoolteacher, mother, and wife; Tony, a failed baseball star-turned-detective; Emily, a socially awkward thirteen-year-old with a dark secret; and Wyatt, a factory worker tormented by a past he can’t change and by a love he doesn’t think he deserves. Connected in ways they cannot begin to imagine, their stories converge in a violent climax that reveals not just the mystery of what happened to Ronnie but all of their secret selves.