June 09

People Who Knew Me by Kim Hooper

This is such a clever book I found it hard to put down which, I must say, was a little surprising.  I did not expect to like it as much as I did but I happily ripped through it in a weekend and for those of us who love to read, you know what a damn fine feeling that is.

The book’s central idea is a simple one but it is not easy to pull off, so a curtsy from me to you Kim Hooper for doing it, especially as this is your debut novel.

Ok, so let’s think about those sliding door moments but don’t hold back now and let’s think big. Let’s think September 11.  Ever wonder about all those people who didn’t go into work at the Twin Towers that day; they skipped out to get coffee; were delayed in traffic; called in sick?

Well this is the backbone of People Who Knew Me.   What would you do if suddenly one day you were given a moment to completely leave your life?  Make people, all those who love you, think you were dead?  But you weren’t.  You simply decided to just run away.

On 9 – 11, Emily Morris decided to do just that.

After finding true love early, years before, she married and had the world at her feet.  Years later she finds she has fallen to her knees as her husband’s business goes belly-up,  her mother-in-law becomes chronically ill and she loses her job.   Starting over in a new job located in the World Trade Centre buildings, Emily falls in love and has an affair with her boss – the man she rejected all those years ago to pursue the man who would become her husband…..stay with me ok, I know it sounds like the Bold and The Beautiful……When she falls pregnant she needs to make a choice but when 9-11 happens,  some choices are taken from her.  Her lover dies and she is spared by not being in the office because he told her to sleep in.  While watching the horror unfold on TV, holed up in her lover’s apartment where no-one will find her,  she decides to pretend to everyone that she too perished.

For me, thinking about that choice in that desperate moment is one thing BUT THEN, days later, actually doing it, well that takes enormous ticker or a serious mental health issue. But, this is Emily’s story and she walks out of her life and doesn’t look back for fourteen years until she – now called Connie – must deal with a life-threatening illness and the ghosts of her old life invade the new one she has built with her daughter.

The writing is light but powerful and Hooper does a solid job of constructing both pre and post 9-11 lives.  You will question Emily’s choices (note plural because there is more than one doozey) – would you? wouldn’t you?  how COULD you? and you will of course come up with your own conclusions making this novel an absolute beauty for a book club.

You’ll be able to take out your moral compasses and give them a whirl; you’ll consider your own sliding door moments and even better still, maybe you’ll learn about your book club mates’ darkest secrets as they share theirs.  Sounds like a ripper Book Club get-together to me…..

But that is just my 2 cents worth.