A debut novel by award-winning author Holly Goddard Jones, about the people surprisingly connected to the discovery of a dead woman’s body in a small town.
Thirteen-year-old Emily Houchens doesn't have many friends. She finds more comfort playing make-believe in the woods near her house in Roma, Kentucky, than with her classmates, who find her strange and awkward. When she happens upon a dead body hidden in the woods one day, she decides not to tell anyone about her discovery—a choice that begins to haunt her.
Susanna Mitchell has always been a good girl, the dutiful daughter and wife. While her older sister Ronnie trolled bars for men and often drove home at sunrise, Susanna kept a neat house, a respectable job, and a young daughter. But when Ronnie goes missing and Susanna realizes that she’s the only person in Roma who truly cares about her sister’s fate, she starts to question her quiet life and its value.
The Next Time You See Me is the story of how one woman’s disappearance exposes the ambitions, prejudices, and anxieties of a small southern town and its residents, who are all connected, sometimes in unexpected ways: Emily; Susanna; Tony, a failed baseball star turned detective, aspiring to be the county’s first black sheriff; and Wyatt, a 55-year-old factory worker tormented by a past he can’t change and by a love he doesn’t think he deserves. Their stories converge in a violent climax that reveals not just the mystery of what happened to Ronnie but all of their secret selves.
©2013 Holly Goddard Jones (P)2013 Blackstone Audio, Inc
"The residents of a small Kentucky town react to the disappearance of a local woman in this first novel by short-story writer Jones…. [The author] builds intense tension surrounding the choices her flawed but compellingly sympathetic characters make as they fight against lonely isolation within the tight confines of small-town America." (Kirkus Reviews)
Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.
The Next Time You See Me is an outstanding example of a well-crafted character driven novel. The plot centers on the mysterious disappearance of one of the residents of a small town, Roma Kentucky, and is sufficiently interesting to keep the narrative moving. But the plot in this book primarily serves as a means to intertwine the lives a large disparate group of people and bring each of them to a crossroads in his or her personal development. Solving the mystery of the disappearance of Ronnie creates the action, but the real secrets in this novel are hidden in the cast of intriguing characters that populate the town and the pages of the book. Goddard Jones begins the big reveal from the first page, but manages to sustain the suspense of each character almost to the end of the novel with amazing pacing. She is always pulling back just enough layers through each chapter to keep the reader's interest piqued until all the story lines of the characters converge at the end of the novel. There are no real heroes or villains in this book, just complex, multi-dimensional people reacting from their personal histories in ways that are identifiable and authentic. Goddard Jones presents each character with detail and compassion - the reader may identify with several and will probably sympathize with most. (Even the dogs in Goddard Jones' book had their own individual personalities, talents and peculiarities.) Goddard Jones is such a character author that she gives dimension even to the bit players - the night cashier at the gas station, the dog handler - that probably only appear on a page or two of the book. I was "involved" with these characters in a way that most authors never make me feel and the book ends at a point where several of the characters are right at the cusp of making big decisions for their lives and now I so want to know what they decided. If you are looking for a mystery/thriller, this won't satisfy - you will have the answer to "what happened to Ronnie" early on. But if you've been waiting to meet some new characters that will take you on fascinating internal journeys and stay with you when you finish the book, The Next Time You See Me will be a big hearty meal!
Cassandra Campbell does a good job with the narration. I adore the timbre of this woman's voice - very rich, almost smoky lush, and very suited to a dark, mysterious story like this. She does sometimes put rather dramatic pauses in paragraphs, sentences, and even within a single word (saying worst as wor-s-t or hitched as hit-ched) that might bother me more if this book weren't so engrossing. I'm no judge of an authentic Kentucky accent so I can't say if she got that right, but Campbell definitely does a first rate job of providing unique voices for all characters and this book has many. (She voiced one of the characters much like the voice of Luanne from King of the Hill - I'm sure that was accidental, but it was a little distracting since the cartoon girl image didn't fit with this story at all.)
Overall, I was very impressed by this debut novel by Holly Goddard Jones and hope to see more from her soon. Recommended!
The character development is great. The writing is great. And yet, at the end I felt let down. The novel simply seemed to fizzle (ergo the three stars).
Perhaps that is part of the message. Life, after all, is like that -- all kinds of monumental things seem to matter but, in the end, you realize that they are simply a part of life.
The plot revolves around a woman's disappearance and how every character came in contact with her -- while she was alive and, in the case of some, while her dead body laid abandoned in the woods. However, the story is not about the disappearance -- or even the body. It's about all the human dramas that led each character to that particular point in time. In fact, if you are looking for a "good mystery," this is not for you -- there is not much of one (you know who killed the woman pretty early on and even her disappearance does not seem that mysterious giving the kind of life she led). The story is about what makes people who they are -- acting in character and sometimes, for inexplicable reasons and with heavy consequences, way out of character as well.
One of the better books I've heard in the last couple years, reminiscent of Crooked Lettter, Crooked Letter, a favorite. The characters are written with such depth and feeling. One Audible reviewer complained, finding them stereotypical. On the contrary, I found them--the middle school bully, the killer, the school teacher, the cop, even the victim--complex and multifaceted. The story weaves in and out of the character's lives, back and forth thru time, revealing the part each plays in the sad drama.
Some reviewers were unhappy with the ending; I found it to be just right. To me the themes of the book were inevitability and lost chances; events unfolded in the only way they could and the ending perfectly illustrates this.
The reader was very good. She has a light touch which, oddly, works well here. A voice laden with portent (insert Scott Brick here) wouldn't be nearly as successful.
I am about 3/4 through the novel and completely engrossed by the story. The narration, however, is distractingly bad. The reader has a nice voice but really butchers the southern accents- it sounds more like a yankee's caricature of backwoods hicks than anything approaching reality. Even worse is the way she uses inflection- so off-target that it seems she isn't even listening to herself. She frequently misinterprets the dialogue and I find myself trying to replay the scene in my head with proper inflection so it makes sense. This is probably the only time I have regretted choosing an audio over a print (electronic) book; I'd have a much better experience listening to my own inner narrative!
The story kept me engrossed from page 1. Awesome connection to the characters through the author.
Yes, I was on the edge of my seat throughout the book. I'm a commute listener and I found myself listening in the evenings and on weekends. I couldn't stop.
Another reviewer stated that the ending was flat, and I have to agree, the ending was a bit flat. But, I think it would have been impossible to have an ending that trumped the rest of the book. Every moment in this book counted.
Jones manages to create a town full of heartbreakingly real characters. The Next Time You See Me reminded me a bit of Stephen King's The Body. In both stories a young person discovers a dead body and uses the discovery to impress their classmates. There is Emily, the middle school girl known as a freak in her school, who indeed turns into a freakish character when she keeps revisiting the dead body she discovered in the woods. She wants to observe the changes as the body decomposes. At school she is mercilessly bullied and taunted.
Meantime, Susanna, Emily's desparately unhappy middle school teacher, tries to discover what happened to her sister who disappears after a night out at the bars. She contacts Joe, her former classmate, now turned detective for help. He is equally isolated by his pain and his race. As they investigate Ronnie's activities leading up to her disappearance, Susanna and Joe rekindle a flame from high school.
Over in the local factory, Wyatt, an overweight older man, provides comic fodder for the young bucks at the plant. However, his life is no joke. His own dog won't even come near him, for he has a horrible secret of his own.
Between the factory, the middle school, Susanna's home and the bleak countryside, this book explores the despair and misery of the town's residents.
Jones does an excellent job of delving into the hearts of the characters to reveal both the good and bad. She made them so real, that I couldn't really condemn even the worst of the deeds committed in this book. So the next time you see any of these characters, you'll know their hearts. The images in this book will haunt you long after you listen to the last word.
I've been a member since 2003. Can't live without it! I actually have 2 accounts! Awesome that they will return books you don't like!
Apparently the reason I have never read anything from this author is because this is her first book. :-) Great start! I will look forward to reading more from this author!
The main players in this novel are a collection of lost souls in the small town of Roma, Kentucky. The disappearance of one of its citizens causes major upheaval in their lives. The story explores the insecurities, hopes, and delusions of several characters ranging in age from middle school school to near-retirement. I felt invested in the these people, but I felt that a few could have been developed a little more. It's definitely not a read that will have you skipping away with a smile on your face, but the author does a good job of delving into the quiet despair that we can create within ourselves when we choose one path and abandon another.
I believe that the reader destroyed the essence of this book. Her voice is better suited to The Velveteen Rabbit than for a look at Kentucky, small town people.
The most interesting aspect of the book is the Kentucky setting. (I am from Kentucky and also an English teacher like the main character.). The least interesting parts were the stereotyped characters.
Nobody in Kentucky has diction consisting of overpronounced words, fake southern accents that make the reader cringe, and a prissy tone...think Nellie Olsen.
Sorry, but the novel was a disappointment.
Gillian Flynn's high praise in reviews pulled me in and was what encouraged me to take a chance on this book. I can see why Gillian Flynn enjoyed it for I saw many similarities in their styles.
You will be shocked when I tell you that the ending of this book is the books weakness. It doesn't end badly, just not very inventive, surprising or powerful. Kind of ho hum. Don't let that stop you though. All the other parts of the book are mind blowing. The fact that this is the author's debut novel will have me watching her for years to come.
A large cast of complex and deep characters that range from 13 years old to 60. They are cleverly woven in such an impressive manner. The author really nailed each character "spot on". Cassandra Campbell was just masterful in her narration. Together they really spoke for those characters and brought them to life. Not a weak or boring one in the bunch.
How the author chains one character to another was keen and my favorite part. It's pure art how she did that. The author draws for you one character then hints to you the possible connection to a previous character in such a teasing slow method that allows you to slowly think ahead or assume that you have seen the relationship - sometimes you get ahead of yourself and you are wrong, other times you see it coming. A stunning novel.
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