This fabulous debut novel, People Who Knew Me by Kim Hooper unfolds in alternating time periods, but kicks off with our main character – Emily – escaping New York one week after September 11 2001.
People Who Knew Me
by Kim Hooper
Published by Macmillan Australia, St Martin's Press
on April 26th 2016
Genres: Literary Fiction
ISBN: 1925483002, 9781925483000
People who knew me think I'm dead.
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. That is, until her husband's business fails and her mother-in-law becomes chronically ill, causing cracks to appear in her marriage. To cope, Emily throws herself into her work.
That's when she falls in love with her boss.
That's when she gets pregnant.
Just as Emily is finally ready to make the choice between the two men, 9/11 splits the world apart. Amid this terrible tragedy, Emily sees an opportunity to remake herself.
But fourteen years later, a life-threatening diagnosis forces her to deal with the legacy of what she left behind.
As Emily becomes Connie and settles into life in California we’re taken back to 1992 when college student Emily meets Drew and falls in love. They both plan to go to grad school but instead marry and flip a coin to see who’ll work and who’ll study.
Fate determines that Drew continue in culinary school while Emily enters the workforce and it’s not long before cracks start to appear in the relationship. The very things Emily loved about Drew – his caring nature and commitment to family – are the things that eventually pull them apart and they find themselves separated by circumstance.
Meanwhile in present day California Connie’s built her life around her daughter Claire who’s approaching her 14th birthday. Claire believes her father died and the pair are close and happy until a cancer diagnosis blows their world apart.
As she deals with treatment and potential scenarios Connie’s forced to confront her past – her affair, her ‘death’, and her own questions about her child’s paternity. All of which will – of course – come at a cost.
I possibly would have liked to know a little more about the fourteen years Connie spent in California before we rejoin her. Claire’s delightful so she’s done a great job with her, but shut herself off from everyone else.
I didn’t want friends. I didn’t want lovers. I wasn’t willing or able to take on anyone else. I was still mourning the people left behind in New York, the people who knew me. I was full-up with them. There wasn’t room for other human beings, with all their requisite feelings and needs and demands and expectations. And it’s always a risk. People can disappear at any moment.
The problem is, no man is an island. p. 6
And herein lies Connie’s problem. She’s closed herself to everyone and everything. And now needs help.
I enjoyed the premise of this novel though wasn’t entirely sure about the logistics of changing your name when you’re supposedly dead. And never being found out.
But this novel’s obviously about more than that. We’re forced to ponder whether running is always the best option. Is it better to stay and confront our problems?
This would be a great book for book clubs as there’s lots of fodder for discussion. Connie’s actions (as well as those of Drew) for a start. And Connie’s decision to run. I didn’t agree with a lot of her actions but couldn’t imagine what it would be like in those circumstances.
It’s impossible not to wonder what would have been different had Connie stayed – admitting to the affair and everything else.
I loved the way Hooper deftly, sympathetically and realistically deals with the cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Cancer doesn’t just pass. And if you don’t talk to someone about it, you’ll go crazy. I could see a shrink, but what I picture is someone speaking to me in a soft voice—as if anything above normal volume would disrupt my peaceful dying process—using a bank of psychological terms to explain away the basic fact that I’m fucking afraid of dying. p 227
And finally it will come as a surprise to regular readers of my reviews that I very much enjoyed the very end of this book. It’s a bit abrupt but also perfect.
People Who Knew Me by Kim Hooper was released in Australia via Pan Macmillan and now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.