Oh god, my heart. When I finished this book in the wee hours of this morning all I could say was wow over and over: wow wow wow. If Goodreads allowed me to give more than 5 starts I wouldn’t hesitate. This book was phenomenal. So much so that I didn’t even realize it was 1 in the morning until after I had finished this fantastic piece. I became completely lost in the words of this book, and I don’t even know where to start with this review because I’m so in love. First things first, I’ll say that I received a free copy of this through Goodreads Giveaways, a place where it’s a toss-up if you’re going to get a good book or a mediocre book. This was a good book. This was actually probably the best book that I’ve read so far that I’ve received from Goodreads. Now, second, here’s a short synopsis.
Wyatt is a freelancing private detective that lives in Las Vegas. 26 years ago in 1986 there was a shooting at a movie theater he worked at when he was in high school in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, leaving him the sole survivor for reasons unknown. A friend of his recruits him to do some private investigating for his daughter, causing Wyatt to return to Oklahoma for the first time since the shooting.
Julianna is nurse who is still hung up on the kidnapping and most-likely death of her sister, Genevieve, which also happened in 1986. Genevieve went missing one night at the county fair leaving no evidence or trace behind. Julianna is still trying desperately to solve her sister’s case, hoping the closure she might find will make her life a little less empty.
Now, where to actually start with this review. I guess I’ll start with the writing, since I fell so in love with it. Berney is an astonishing writer. I can’t believe I haven’t heard of his work before. His descriptions were great, his characters were great, his dialogue was great, everything was great. I found it so easy to get lost in the words he put to paper. He writes in a way that brings his words to life. The topics that he incorporates into this story make it exceedingly relatable. He brings in tough topics like love, loss, misdirection, post traumatic stress, and what it means to find happiness. I underlined a bounteous amount of passages that hit me hard. But, there’s more than just the sad stuff. Berney incorporates comedy so effortlessly, especially in Wyatt. Wyatt is such a sarcastic little smart ass. I love him. It was great. I mean, not so great for Wyatt since he’s obviously using his humor to cover up some pretty deep issues, but it was great for me as the reader. Berney taps into what it’s like dealing with the unknown and if closure can really bring happiness, all that and a scoop of comedy on the side. His writing stands out as something unique, fresh, and remarkable.
Next, since I’ve already mentioned that the characters are tremendously well written, I’ll just talk a bit more about them. I loved all the characters, not because they were perfect and didn’t make a lot of mistakes, but because they were beautifully flawed humans trying to deal with life the best they could. They were believable. They were real. I noticed in some other reviews that I read about this book where people were upset that the characters made some really poor, stupid decisions. But, who hasn’t made poor, stupid decisions before? Maybe not to the extent of these characters, but everyone makes bad choices, what matters is how these bad choices shape you – what matters is what you take from the bad choices you make. These characters were stunningly written, and I seriously loved every single one.
Another thing that I absolutely adored about this text is that it deals with subtly. It deals with the small things that have the biggest effects on someone’s life. It’s not about the big picture, it’s about everything that makes up the big picture. Maybe this is another reason the characters were so believable. Berney doesn’t tie everything up throughout the text. He writes things and then doesn’t explain what it meant. You only get inside Julianna and Wyatt’s minds. You know as much as they do, and just like in real life, some things go unanswered. And I thought that was bone-chilling. You experience everyone along with Wyatt and Julianna just like you would if you experience something and then you describe it to someone who didn’t see what you did. Berney’s writing style is so unique and authentic that I couldn’t stop myself from falling in love.
[Mild spoilers to follow in this paragraph.] Along the lines of subtly, I really like how Julianna and Wyatt don’t actually become completely invested in each others stories. They cross, but never become one. They represent how one person can touch your life in such a small way that you don’t even really think about it until later, or sometimes never. Wyatt and Julianna know nothing about each other at the beginning and know nothing about each other at the end either. They are strangers and illustrate how strangers can have such a big and small effect on your life and how those two vastly different things can be the same. It was just, ahhhhh, I’m just so in love…so, so in love.
One final thing I want to mention, because I’m a feminist, and, when I find a text that is so impressively not sexist or racist, I have to talk about it. There are POC characters in this text (many of them.) and sexism is flipped topsy-turvy. I was so impressed and fell in love even more. Berney writes all these great things into this book with such ease that you know it’s not something he has to think about. I was so impressed. I am so impressed. This book is so impressive. [Please excuse me while I take a break to do some more pretty serious fangirling, thank you.]
Well, that was a relief. It always feels great to talk about a book I loved so much. I will most definitely be checking out Berney’s other two novels, most likely in the near future, because I need more of his writing. I NEED IT. I highly, highly recommend this novel, especially to those of you whole like mystery, crime, or contemporary fiction. I loved, loved, loved it.