Review: When I’m Gone by Emily Bleeker

3 Stars

This book opens on a pretty awful scene.  Luke Richardson is returning home after burying his beloved wife, Natalie.  Not only is he dealing with his own grief, but also the grief of their three young children and learning how to parent their children alone.  Something that he’s really not prepared for is the sight of a blue envelope in Natalie’s handwriting waiting for him on the floor of their home.  Inside the envelop is a letter from Natalie, written on her first day of cancer treatment.  This letter turns out to be the first of many.  Luke is convinced that they are genuine, but who is sending them?

As the letters keep coming, Luke begins to learn that his wife had secrets, ones that she never told him, not even when she knew that her cancer wasn’t going to go into remission.  As he continues to receive these letters, he becomes obsessed with them and their content.  He begins to question everything that he ever believed to be true about his wife and their marriage.

The premise was really good.  Putting myself in Luke’s shoes, I would probably become just as obsessed with these letters from my loved one that just suddenly started showing up right after the funeral.  I could totally empathize with Luke in the beginning and even when he started finding out her secrets, I could go along with his reactions.  But there were too many times where I just wanted to throttle him for being an idiot.

There were a lot of secondary characters that had a lot of page-time dedicated to them, but you really didn’t get a very good sense of who they were and how they fit into Luke and Natalie’s life.  The relationships seemed a little stilted and wooden.  Natalie’s mother absolutely hated Luke, but you really don’t get a sense of why.  You would think that no matter how much you might dislike your son-in-law, that you would at least bury the hatchet long enough to have the funeral and help her grandchildren mourn.

It was kind of neat to get to know a character solely through her letters.  I think that was probably the best aspect of the book for me.  Learning about Natalie through her letters.  She began them on the very day that she first started her treatments and as her disease got progressively worse, she began to open up about everything.  How she wanted Luke to go on after she passed.  What her deepest secret was and how it could effect him and their family.

The twist wasn’t nearly as satisfying as I thought it would be.  Probably because I figured it out pretty quickly.  I think without some of the foreshadowing the twist could have been much more of a surprise.  I also wish it didn’t end as abruptly as it did.  It ended on a cautiously optimistic note, but there were still so many questions left unanswered.

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