From the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Everything We Keep comes the highly anticipated sequel. Told from one man’s two perspectives, Everything We Left Behind effortlessly blends suspense, mystery, and romance in an exploration of loss, resilience, and the compelling need to protect the ones we love at all cost.
Two months before his wedding, financial executive James Donato chased his trade-laundering brother Phil to Mexico, only to be lost at sea and presumed dead. Six and a half years later, he emerges from a dissociative fugue state to find he’s been living in Oaxaca as artist Carlos Dominguez, widower and father of two sons, with his sister-in-law Natalya Hayes, a retired professional surfer, helping to keep his life afloat. But his fiancée, Aimee Tierney, the love of his life, has moved on. She’s married and has a child of her own.
Devastated, James and his sons return to California. But Phil is scheduled for release from prison, and he’s determined to find James, who witnessed something in Mexico that could land Phil back in confinement. Under mounting family pressure, James flees with his sons to Kauai, seeking refuge with Natalya. As James begins to unravel the mystery of his fractured identity, danger is never far behind, and Natalya may be the only person he can trust.
Well, I did not realize that this was a sequel until I just sat down to review it. Oops. In that regard, this book can definitely stand alone.
Ironically, my biggest issue with this book was that I felt thrown in. I wanted more backstory. I didn't understand what had happened and I wanted it in laymen's terms. I wanted more on Raquel. I wanted to know the family dynamics. I guess I should have read the first book before reading this and maybe I wouldn't have had these issues!
Having said that, I thought this was a quite solid book despite the strange premise. It was challenging for me to really comprehend the strange dissociative fugue state that James-Carlos had, and to relate to how it might be to wake up one day in this state, but I enjoyed reading about how this often happened after trauma. It did feel too convenient as a trope, but I got over that since this is a book. I would have recommended it alone, which says a lot.
I also wasn't terribly enthralled with the Natalya/James-Carlos relationship. Natalya was Carlos's deceased wife's half-sister, and I thought it just could have been much tidier if she had been a best friend, or a next door neighbour, or something that would just keep family out. There were too many "true loves" in this book for me to feel passionately about any--it's hard to believe that Aimee was James's true love his whole life when he then has no problems going to the sisters.
I did really admire the way that James-Carlos both cared immensely for their children and worked to do everything in their power to keep them happy and safe. This was really admirable, and made me care so much more about all of the characters.
If you enjoyed the first book, then this one will probably satisfy you. But you should probably read the first one before diving into this one simply so that the premise will be more clear and so that you care more about these characters than I did.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.