The Things We Knew by Catherine West (review)

thethingsweknew_west_tnzBook Description

When their tragic past begins to resurface, can he help her remember the things she can’t?

After her mother’s death twelve years ago, Lynette Carlisle watched her close-knit family unravel. One by one, her four older siblings left their Nantucket home and never returned. All seem to blame their father for their mother’s death, but nobody will talk about that tragic day. And Lynette’s memory only speaks through nightmares.

Then Nicholas Cooper returns to Nantucket, bringing the past with him. Once Lynette’s adolescent crush, Nick knows more about her mother’s death than he lets on. The truth could tear apart his own family—and destroy his fragile friendship with Lynette, the woman he no longer thinks of as a kid sister.

As their father’s failing health and financial concerns bring the Carlisle siblings home, secrets surface that will either restore their shattered relationships or separate the siblings forever. But pulling up anchor on the past propels them into the perfect storm, powerful enough to make them question their faith, their willingness to forgive, and the very truth of all the things they thought they knew.

♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦

Occasionally I read a book that I need to wait to review, to put some distance between the story and the emotions it evoked in me so that I can talk about it coherently (read: not tear up thinking about it).  I read mainly for enjoyment and partly as an escape.  I read books that amuse, touch or inspire, that make me cry or laugh out loud.  Rarely, though, do I read a book of fiction that breaks my heart into little pieces.  This is the only way I can think to describe what this book did.  As I read it, my heart was slowly breaking for Lynette, Nick and to a lesser extent for the whole Carlisle family.

The straggly grounds were not as he remembered.  Nothing was as he remembered.  The magic he’d felt when he’d first arrived tonight had only been a lost memory trying to find its way home.  There was no magic here anymore.  Only desolation. (p.84)

This could easily be brushed aside as just another story of a romance where a man and a woman who had secretly had crushes on each other meet again as adults, but there is so much more to it than that.  This is a story about responsibility, about family that is born and family that is made, it is about memories and how they can protect or harm, and about secrets and addictions.  It is also about coming home, healing, and the love and faith that helps see them through.

Catherine West has crafted a story and a strong cast of characters that grab hold of the reader and don’t let go.  The relationships and individual struggles of the five siblings, and with Nick as an honorary sibling in childhood, were compelling and (having four siblings myself) quite believable.  The atmosphere/feel of the novel is a little bit Grey Gardens, a little bit Places in the Heart, and brings to mind the feel of the first few episodes of the TV show Parenthood… then again, it is nothing like them.

5/5 stars.  Easily one of my favorite books of the year, I cannot recommend it highly enough.  I often say, when I enjoy a book, that I am looking forward to reading more from the author.  Here I will say that I need to read more from Catherine West.  I need to know the stories of the other Carlisle siblings and Wyldwood, their Nantucket family home.


The Things We Knew by Catherine West | Thomas Nelson, July 2016 | paperback, 352 pgs

This review refers to an ebook copy received from BookLook Bloggers.  The opinions expressed are my own.  The quote included is from the paperback copy subsequently received thanks to TNZ’s Fiction Guild.  A big thank you as well to Carrie of ReadingIsMySuperPower.org who sent me a personal message, letting me know that I needed to read this.  You were, as usual, right.

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9 thoughts on “The Things We Knew by Catherine West (review)

  1. Did I warn you that it would tear your heart out? If not, I apologize LOL. But hmm… maybe not because then you might not have read it and would have definitely missed out!! 😀 So glad you loved it and that my track record remains secure 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. LOVE this!! I can’t tell you what it means when someone ‘gets’ it to this extent. You and Meez Carrie and a few others are in the Premier League. I thank you so much for loving this story. 🙂

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      1. My next release (March 2017) The Memory of You, is a stand alone, totally different to The Things We Knew, but I think you might need to keep the tissues handy again . . . there may be a book or two in the works featuring the other Carlisle siblings, just have to find the time to write now!!

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      2. The Memory of You is on my “2017 Anticipated Releases” shelf on GoodReads – I’ll be sure to have tissues on hand! You certainly left it open for the possibility of more books for the Carlisle siblings, and when you do find the time to write them I will be looking forward to them as well 😀

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