Audible version, narrated by Aoife McMahon
This book wrecked me. For the last 30 minutes or so I was legit bawling my eyes out. Some of this while in the train. I think that when I’m really into a book I lose awareness of my surroundings. Fortunately the train was mostly empty.
This is the story of the last day of Jeremy Bean’s life. I knew going in that it was going to be about a teenage boy who died, so I wasn’t exactly expecting sunshine and unicorns, but it still managed to really punch me in the gut.
As seems to be almost unavoidable these days, the story is told from the POVs of multiple characters.* It starts out with Maisie Bean Brennan about to take the stage at a university to tell the story of how and why her son died, 20 years later. Based on this we already know two things: Jeremy died, and most likely things are going to end well for Maisie and Fred. This however does not take away from the suspense of the story.
For one thing, we only find out how Jeremy died towards the very end of the book, and for another I at least got so wrapped up in the story and the characters that I just had to keep listening.
I actually don’t want to say too much about the plot of this one as there are some things that can potentially be spoiled, but I’ll give a short recap.
Most of the story plays out on the day that Jeremy disappears – the 1st of January 1995, and the days following the disappearance, where we follow Jeremy’s family members and friends. Every now and then there’s a “flashback” to Jeremy on the night of the 1st.
We are given a lot of backstory not only about the Bean family, but about the people around them through these changing POVs, and for me this worked well. I was interested in almost all the characters and engaged in their stories. Though I have to say that although I loved Bridie (Maisie’s mother who is becoming senile), I didn’t really feel as if her parts added anything to the story. Same can be said for a few of the pieces from Jeremy’s group of friends.
Overall though, we’re given a window into the lives of a wonderful group of complicated, warm and funny people, who care deeply about each other. There’s a lot of rough stuff, sadness and desperation here, strictly aside from Jeremy’s disappearance, but it is written with a lot of warmth and love, so under it all there’s something uplifting.
Strangely, I found Jeremy’s actual death to be sort of anticlimactic while at the same time it was legitimately one of the most heart-wrenching things I’ve ever read. Maybe if you read it you’ll understand what I mean.
This book unapologetically tugs at your heartstrings, not only to tell a big and beautiful and heart-breaking story, but ultimately also to deliver an important message. If you like that sort of thing – like I do, this is the book for you.
It’s not perfect, but I give it 5 stars because of the way it left me feeling. I’m sure I’ll remember these characters for a while. Poor, dear, Rave…
A bonus for me, and what ultimately swayed me when checking this out on Audible (I’m still a little sceptical to anything tagged as chick-lit, but this is the second example proving me wrong) is that it’s narrated by Aoife McMahon – one of my all-time favourite narrators. She really helps make the story come alive.
And incidentally I’ve just realised I’ll have to strike “audio book narrator” off of my list of potential future jobs, as there’s no way even after many read-throughs that I’d be able to read the last section of this book without at least a noticeable quiver in my voice.
*I don’t mean to say that that’s a fault, at least not in most cases, it just strikes me that it seems to be the case more often than not. I wonder if it has anything to do with our ever-dwindling attention span – maybe it’s easier to keep people engaged if you jump between several characters? Or maybe it’s influence from TV. Or just… How we’ve decided to tell stories at this particular point in time.