Contemporary Fiction - Women's Fiction
WARNING: This review will be a bit spoiler-y to those who haven't read Kate's first novel, Thought I Knew You.
Let me start by saying I'm coming into this novella biased for a number of reasons. First of all, I'm a huge fan of Kate Moretti's previous works: Thought I Knew You and Binds That Tie. Secondly, I'm a sucker for books about classical music, and OMG THE HEROINE'S AN ORCHESTRA VIOLINIST!!! Thirdly, I like Kate's writing so much that I published her myself in Brave New Girls, the anthology about girls in STEM that I co-edited. Fourthly, I watched this book go from a vague idea to an actual book, which is always thrilling. I chatted with Kate when she was first brainstorming what she'd do with a Thought I Knew You companion novella (I may have pestered her about writing about the Other Woman you meet in TIKY because I'm a fangirl and wanted to know what happened from her POV). And fifthly, Kate sent me an early draft to vet for classical music-type things (I play violin and spent my teen years as a dedicated orchestra girl), so I kind of feel like one of the book's aunties (not my baby, but sometimes feels a little like it).
Also, *disclaimer time* Kate and I share a publisher (Red Adept Publishing), but this is NOT one of the reasons I'm biased (neither Red Adept nor Kate asked me to review this book, and my opinions are completely my own honest thoughts, etc. etc. Sage's Blog Tours did send me a free review copy, but I'd already bought and paid for the novella with my own cashie money because I love Kate's work and I wanted to read more).
Damn. I think that intro's longer than my review's going to be. Let's get to it then.
Karen Caughee's life is a mess. As a dedicated member of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, she dreams of being the next Concertmistress and taking her passion for music to the next level. But with an alcoholic mother to take care of, a boyfriend she's drifting apart from, and stiff competition from her frenemy in the violin section, she ends up succumbing to the whirlwind of pressures and botching her audition. Just when it seems things can't get any worse, she's in a car accident that causes a devastating injury - one that keeps her from playing her violin.
She finds solace in the man who pulled her from the wreck, an American named Greg whom she'd met earlier that evening by chance. Greg gives her the support she sorely needs, but she only sees him when he's in town for a business trip. And though she's fallen hard for him, she starts to realize that he's not who she thinks he is... and he's put her in a terrible position.
I love that Kate used this novella, a companion piece to Thought I Knew You, to explore Karen's untold story. Karen's only seen briefly in TIKY as the infamous Other Woman. TIKY is about Claire Barnes coming to grips with her husband's disappearance and struggling with his betrayal, and Karen's more of a symbol than a person. While You Were Gone takes what TIKY set up and flips the infidelity tale on its head. Karen becomes a fully realized character, and I love seeing the story from the other side.
WYWG is really, in many ways, a character study. It delves deep into Karen's struggles and passions, letting her tell her side of the story in her own voice. I love that it shows that the Other Woman is a person too. Kate has a real talent for breathing life into her characters and making them feel real. The conversational voice and the complex emotions, the romance and the betrayal... I enjoyed every moment in this novella. Especially the scene in which Claire confronts Karen... same dialogue as in TIKY, but told from Karen's perspective.
We live in a world that loves to make quick, snap judgments of people and is always in a rush to put them into little boxes with labels on them. Readers of TIKY (including myself!) did just that to Karen, the Other Woman in an extramarital affair. By giving Karen a voice, Kate shows us how every story has multiple sides, and even unlikable figures are also human beings. And sometimes, they aren't what you think.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Despite Karen Caughee’s intense focus on her music, her life is drifting out of its lane. Her alcoholic mother keeps calling from bars for early-morning rides, her boyfriend doesn’t think she gets him, and that Toronto Symphony Orchestra position she applied for ends up going to her friend, Amy. By chance, she meets American Greg Randolf just before she’s in a car accident. He pulls her from the wreckage, but after major surgery, her recovery is slow. Without her music, her life’s pursuit, Karen is pushed further adrift.
Greg stays by her side while she heals, and he sees her every time he’s in Toronto for work. Without any other support or friendship in her life, Karen craves his enthusiastic attention, and their friendship deepens to love. Though she’s fallen hard for him, he doesn’t share everything with her. In one heartrending moment, Karen’s life comes to a crossroads, and she must face the full truth about who Greg is, and about who she has become.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kate Moretti lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids, and a dog. She’s worked in the pharmaceutical industry for ten years as a scientist, and has been an avid fiction reader her entire life.
She enjoys traveling and cooking, although with two kids, a day job, and writing, she doesn’t get to do those things as much as she’d like.
Her lifelong dream is to buy an old house with a secret passageway.
Goodreads page: http://bit.ly/1W4cgMS
Blog: A Beaker’s Reflection
Red Adept Publishing Page: http://bit.ly/RAPWhileGone