The Things We Knew by Catherine West (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

Book Review – The Things We Knew by Catherine West

The Things We Knew by Catherine West (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

About the Book (from the publisher):

The Things We Knew by Catherine West (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

When their tragic past begins to resurface, can he help her remember the things she can’t?

After her mother’s death twelve years ago, Lynette Carlisle watched her close-knit family unravel. One by one, her four older siblings left their Nantucket home and never returned. All seem to blame their father for their mother’s death, but nobody will talk about that tragic day. And Lynette’s memory only speaks through nightmares.

Then Nicholas Cooper returns to Nantucket, bringing the past with him. Once Lynette’s adolescent crush, Nick knows more about her mother’s death than he lets on. The truth could tear apart his own family—and destroy his fragile friendship with Lynette, the woman he no longer thinks of as a kid sister.

As their father’s failing health and financial concerns bring the Carlisle siblings home, secrets surface that will either restore their shattered relationships or separate the siblings forever. But pulling up anchor on the past propels them into the perfect storm, powerful enough to make them question their faith, their willingness to forgive, and the very truth of all the things they thought they knew.

My Thoughts:

This novel deals with very important topics and themes, like trust, truth, forgiveness, redemption (especially in choosing to turn back, which is great to focus on), and healing. The book’s plot moves steadily, sometimes driven by action, sometimes by dialogue. I also appreciated that each of the siblings has a different personality, with different issues and reactions to the stress impacting themselves and their family.

A few stylistic writing choices bogged down the writing for me. Many of the sentences started incompletely (ie: “Didn’t want to…” instead of “She didn’t want to..”) for many of the characters. I don’t mind that technique used sparingly, but too much narration for too many of the characters used this style. I feel like if it had been used with just one character rather than all, it could be a voice choice that wouldn’t slow down reading. Flashbacks are used quite frequently to convey knowledge. (Some readers will be fine with this; some readers might not like it as much.)

I also felt the dialogue had some inconsistencies where a character would say one thing (about another or in reaction to), yet the scene right before or after would show something different, and readers were to believe both. The dialogue was stilted at times (particularly the romance and the faith-focused conversations). It’s really hard to write natural dialogue, especially when also trying to insert faith conversations that feel honest and true, and this is very subjective. For me, personally, sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. There’s some discussion on hope that falls a little flat, as well, particularly because much of the book carries such a melancholy tone (which feels appropriate for much of what the characters are feeling).

What readers might get most out of this book is that each person deals with conflict and obstacles differently, and the quicker we look to each other and truly see each other, the better we can help one another.

What novel about families has impacted you recently?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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