I had a difficult time immersing myself in I Found You by Lisa Jewell, and I’m not entirely sure why. This novel had many characteristic that I appreciate. It was atmospheric. The writing was beautiful. It involved a mystery that I desperately wanted to solve. Yet, I started this book four separate times before finally reading all the way to the end.
In a windswept British seaside town, single mom Alice Lake finds a man sitting on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, and no idea how he got there. Against her better judgment, she invites him inside.
Meanwhile, in a suburb of London, twenty-one-year-old Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one. Then the police tell her that her husband never existed.
Twenty-three years earlier, Gray and Kirsty are teenagers on a summer holiday with their parents. Their annual trip to the quaint seaside town is passing by uneventfully, until an enigmatic young man starts paying extra attention to Kirsty. Something about him makes Gray uncomfortable—and it’s not just that he’s playing the role of protective older brother.
Two decades of secrets, a missing husband, and a man with no memory are at the heart of this brilliant new novel, filled with the “beautiful writing, believable characters, pacey narrative, and dark secrets” (London Daily Mail) that make Lisa Jewell so beloved by audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.
What Jewell successfully created in I Found You is an atmospheric novel, rich with vivid imagery and an underlying sinister feeling that both entices readers to keep turning the pages while at the same time making them feel slightly squidgy about the story that is unfolding. And, for the most part, I think that’s what I was really sticking around for– the atmosphere and, yes, the squidginess, though that seems to be the case with most of the books I’ve been reading lately. Because honestly, I found the plot line to be somewhat predictable, the characters to be kind of unrealistic, and the pacing to be somewhat slow compared to the usual thriller. And, let’s be real– if a man suffering from amnesia shows up on my property during a rainstorm, I’m not inviting him to spend the night in my detached garage (even though the previous tenants were so thoughtful to leave behind their mildewy box spring); I’m calling 9-1-1 not only to get this guy medical attention but to report a missing person. And, God forbid he enters my home uninvited to toast my hypothetical daughter a bagel and watch cartoons with her! How did protagonist, Alice Lake, find this totally acceptable and endearing when the average person would lose their mind?
Yet, despite my grief with the characters, part of what made this story so compelling is not just the alternation of narrators (between modern-day Alice Lake and Lily Monrose as well as the past’s Graham Ross), but also the alternation of timelines. While I’ve struggled with alternating timelines in the past, Jewell incorporates one that is not only intriguing but even blends the voices of the past and present together in a way that truly had me on the edge of my seat.