Emily Morris got her happily-ever-after earlier than most. Married at a young age to a man she loves passionately, she is building the life she always wanted. But when her mother-in-law becomes chronically ill, enormous stress threatens her marriage. Emily watches helplessly as the devotion Drew once showed her is transferred to his ailing mother. When she's thrust into an enforced caretaker role, it's too much to bear. Emily starts spending more and more time at work. That's when she falls in love with her boss. That's when she gets pregnant.
Resolved to tell her husband of the affair and to leave him for the father of her child, Emily's plans are thwarted when the world is suddenly split open. It's 9/11 and her lover is just one of the thousands of people who have been killed in the towers. It's amid terrible tragedy that she finds her freedom, as she leaves New York City to start a new life. It's not easy, but Emily--now Connie--forges a new happily-ever-after in California. But when a life-threatening diagnosis upends Connie's life, she is forced to confront her past for the good of her thirteen-year-old daughter.
A riveting debut in which a woman must confront her own past in order to secure the future of her daughter, People Who Knew Me asks readers-what would you do?
The ending of this had me desperately trying to "turn" the digital page, so upset that there wasn't more! (Phone, I deeply apologise for abusing you and the kindle app.)
This was one of those books told in alternating chapters where both sections were so good that I had to race through one in order to see what happened in the other and so forth. Both were partially trainwrecks waiting to happen and had me cringing in fear the whole way through, but mainly because I wanted Emily/Connie to succeed so badly.
The struggle of caring for an elder with a debilitating illness was so real. Emily's husband's mother slowly develops Parkinson's disease, and eventually a fall leads to her admitting that she doesn't have health insurance and to Emily and Drew realising what critical condition she's in. Emily talks about how horrible it is to wish that the illness was terminal because taking care of her really takes over their lives and influences their marriage deeply. She joins a support group and meets a friend there in another poignant moment.
Drew and Emily's relationship was fascinating to watch. At the beginning, they fall wildly for each other and seem to have that passionate love where everything will work out. This, of course, completely devolves, but it's scary to see because it always seems like it might have worked if only circumstances had been different. There was one point where they flipped a coin to see who would go back to school that were quite frankly scary, but also just so fascinating to read about.
I loved the role that Gabe played, the way he showed up in the beginning as the popular kid wanting to take Emily out and the way he appeared later on as an employer with a job Emily desperately needed. Fate is a tricky creature, and this just seemed so ironic--yet still believable. The subsequent events were painful yet beautiful in their own sense.
The people in Connie's life after she changes her name were so much fun as well. Claire, Emily's daughter, was a really spunky young kid and her passion was super sweet--she runs for class president and initially wants to donate a portion of vending machine profits to charity. Her boss and her landlord were both total sweethearts and I visualised them as big teddy bears that I just wanted to hug.
All characters felt very real, all the situations felt very poignant, and I felt like every word of this novel was well put to use. I didn't expect to get as invested as I did, but by the end I was head over heels for these characters. Highly recommend.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.