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.