It seems that every time I read a new book I'm saying, "Wow, this was the best book that I've read in a LONG time." Jane Was Here was no different. I read it just after finishing up with Night Machines by Kia Heavey, and I was a little apprehensive because I didn't think I'd be able to get into a new book and new characters after getting to know Heavey's characters so well. (I generally have that problem after reading a really good, well written book.) Jane Was Here did not give me this problem.
When I began reading, I didn't understand the shape the story was taking, and I got a little annoyed. But I soon came to know the characters, even if I felt that, at first, they were thrown at me in quick succession. I had to keep flipping back to remember who some of the characters were.
After figuring out which characters were important, I was able to start truly enjoying this book. This book is so well worked together that I can't say too much about it without giving away some serious plot points.
A young woman shows up in a small town with no real memory of it, but she knows that she once lived there. She walks down the street and to a house. Knocking on the door, she tells the man Brett renting the house that she lives there. Brett is perplexed, but allows the woman in. Immediately, he is drawn to her, wants to comfort her, wants to protect her. His feelings for this woman are stronger than his feelings for his own son Collin who is with him for the summer.
Brett and his son are spending the summer in this small town on a whim. Brett doesn't know why he picked this town, but he cannot bring himself to leave. Over the course of the summer, he allows his son to spend all of his free time with a girl he met at the motel in town. His intentions were to use the summer to forge a relationship with Collin but falters at every attempt. Jane soon takes over his whole existence.
As Jane works to recover her memory, her recent past begins to catch up with her. Her family sends out a private detective to look for her. As she tries to dodge the PI, Jane is forced to tell Brett about her past.
***This next paragraph will be a bit spoiler-ish*** Jane finally confides in Brett that her family had her institutionalized for autism when she was a young child. She claims that she was born knowing that she wasn't in the right life and that these were not her parents; so, she did everything in her power to get them to not love her or bond with her. Eventually, she was placed in an institution. As a parent of a child with autism, I was a bit un-pleased with this explanation. Perhaps I'm over reacting, but it seems that autism is a trigger word and blanket explanation and excuse. Everyone uses it for everything. Brett's son, Collin, is also a bit of an odd ball, and I was drawn to thinking that he was meant to also be autistic. I find that autism is over used in all forms of media, and it perpetuates a stereotype that I wish would die.
This book was incredibly well written and edited. The one thing that I found that got under my skin, perhaps a bit too much, was a misquoted song. An excerpt from Smashing Pumpkins, "Bullet with Butterfly Wings", was misquoted. We all know that the song goes, "Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage". This bothered me so much because I was able to type "despite" into a Google search bar and the rest was auto-completed for me. Easy to check, bothersome to miss.
I had a hard time really liking or connecting with the characters in the book because their faults were so prominent. I didn't dislike them, I cared where the story went, but there wasn't any one character that I said, "Oh, I want her to be okay" or "I want everything to work out for him". The characters were what they were and they all deserved whatever it was that was coming to them. Somehow, you knew while you were reading, there was no stopping where this story was going, no matter what choices the characters made.
I feel that I'm not doing the characters or story justice because I don't want to give anything away. Reading the book was like making a mosaic. Each piece was important and without the proper placement, the story just wouldn't have come out right. The reader is left to discover each piece when the time is right.
Sarah Kernochan writes a well woven tale of a woman who cannot explain her past and how her past is shaping the future of a small town.