You Knew Me When: A Novel. Emily Liebert. Penguin Group (USA). September 2013. 352 pp. pbk. ISBN #: 9780451419446.
Kitty Hill and her father moved to Manchester, Vermont in the 1990s after they lost Kitty’s mother. It was just the right thing as Kitty quickly realized when she met a young girl exactly her age, Laney Marten, who lived two doors away from Kitty’s new home. In between lived a single woman, Luella Hancock, who also became a wise, loving presence in Kitty’s life and who allowed the girls to swim in her pool, eat her food, and just visit. Her home was their home. Kitty and Laney immediately bond as best friends, “sisters” as they quickly realized. Reading of how their friendship forms and deepens is delightful and how seamlessly Luella shares their lives as well. But when Kitty falls in love, that all changes so quickly that it seems their bond is irrevocably broken until years later a second chance is given to them by Luella!
In between the missing years, Kitty has become a high-powered executive at a Manhattan, New York cosmetics company. She’s a definite Type A personality who works around the clock, rarely sleeps more than a few hours, and has forgotten all about Laney and Luella in that small New England town. But she is quite shocked to receive a letter with a message that forces her to return to Vermont and interact with Laney. It initially isn’t pretty at all as caustic barbs and nasty comments fly, with each trying to either avoid or hurt each other. Little by little, however, they learn to connect again but it’s a long, arduous journey at times. As difficult as it seems, Emily Liebert knows exactly where to insert fluctuate scenes that forebode disaster one minute and hope the next. Ironically, it’s not unbearable at all to read; in fact, it’s mesmerizing and the reader is rooting for a positive outcome, never sure where it will all unwind or mesh together.
You Knew Me When: A Novel is a novel about the often-heard phrase, “forgive and forget.” So many words have been written about others in which one will claim it’s impossible to do both, others who claim one can do only one, and others who say one can choose to do both. Katherine’s journey leads her to discover the blend of Kitty and Katherine she is meant to be, and Laney realizes one can focus on dreams and betrayal of same that one totally misses what could really be even better than the original, ideal vision for the future.
This is a wonderfully constructed novel that will astonish, fascinate, and grip readers to every page. The characters are vividly portrayed and interact with such dynamic dialogue that you won’t want to put the book down. There’s an additional feature about style in dresses, jewelry and cosmetics that is unique in its own way that will appeal both to those who love beauty and style and those who’ve never quite given much attention to it. Most of all, it’s about what it takes to mutually heal in a relationship, without any tragic drama. A sense of humor and openness to the meaning of love in real, everyday situations is vital and Liebert masterfully presents the perfect blend. This reviewer loved this novel and highly, highly recommends it to everyone!