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Remember Me Like This: A Novel
 
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Remember Me Like This: A Novel [Format Kindle]

Bret Anthony Johnston

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1

Months earlier, the June heat on Mustang Island was gauzy and glomming. The sky hung close, pale as caliche, and the small played-out waves were dragging in the briny, pungent scent of seaweed. On the beach, people tried holding out for a breeze from the Gulf, but when the gusts blew ashore, they were humid and harsh, kicking up sand that stung like wasps. By midday, everyone surrendered. Fishermen cut bait, surfers packed in their boards. Even the notoriously dogged sunbathers shook out their long towels and draped them over the seats in their cars, the leather and vinyl scalding. Lines for the ferry stretched for half an hour, though it could seem days before the dashboard vents were pushing in cool air. Porpoises wheeled in the boats’ wakes, their bellies pink and glistening.

After the short pass across the Laguna Madre, the ferry docked on the north jetty and drivers moved onto the mainland through the small, flat town of Southport, Texas. They passed an anchor-shaped monument embossed with the words welcome aboard, then the tackle shops and bait stands and the old rust-pocked pickups where men sold shrimp from ice chests. To the west, behind the leaning palm trees with their husks as dry and brown as parchment, the soapy bay fanned into the horizon. There was the public boat ramp and marina and the half-razed Teepee Motel, now nothing more than a cluster of concrete teepees hemming a drained kidney-shaped pool. A faded vinyl banner for the upcoming Shrimporee sagged over the diagonal parking places on Main Street, then popped and opened up in the wind; the Shrimporee was in September. On the asphalt, puddles of heat appeared, shimmered, evaporated. The seafood restaurants and a spate of garishly painted souvenir shops lined Station Street, then just before the town yielded to the blacktop highway came the Whataburger and H-E-B grocery and Loan Star Pawnshop, whose rusted arrow marquee sign announced, we buy window units! The pawnshop’s crushed-shell parking lot was crowded this time of year—shrimpers hocking tools between good hauls, surfers hunting for wet suits, men from the Coast Guard quibbling over fishing rods. Today, the last Wednesday of the month, a man was trying to sell one of the pawnbrokers an old Cadillac, a cream-colored Fleetwood Brougham. The hood was raised and the ragtop was lowered, and the men stood in the pale sun—squinting, haggling, appearing stranded to everyone who passed.

Across town, in the Villa Del Sol condominium complex, Eric Campbell stood under a cool shower, listening. He thought he’d heard his phone buzzing, but either it had stopped or he’d been mistaken. He’d left the phone next to his watch and wedding band on the nightstand. He opened the shower curtain, leaned out, waited. The only sounds were the water pulsing through the showerhead and the air-conditioning unit whirring outside, so he drew the curtain and rinsed off. The afternoon sun slanted in through the bathroom’s skylight. He wondered if they’d break a hundred degrees today, if they hadn’t already. He was glad to have parked his truck in the garage.

The condo belonged to Kent Robichaud. He was a surgeon, and although he and his wife, Tracy, lived on Ocean Drive in Corpus, they’d bought the condo in Southport to be closer to the marina on weekends. They were in their late thirties, originally from the Midwest; they owned a twenty-footer named Thistle Dew. Eric liked Kent. He tried not to think about him when he spent afternoons with Tracy. With summer school in session, they’d gotten into the routine of him coming over after his Wednesday class. Tracy would drive in from Corpus and read the weekly Southport Sun in her breakfast nook until Eric’s truck appeared on the street. Then she’d click open the garage door and make her way to the bedroom, undressing.

Eric always checked messages before stepping out of his truck. Usually there weren’t any. At home, Griffin would still be sleeping, or he’d be playing videogames and waiting for the afternoon to cool off enough to go skateboarding. If Griff wanted to leave the house, he had to call his mother or father for permission; when Eric had thought he heard his phone in the shower, he assumed it was his son. His younger son. Griff had just turned fourteen. Of course, Eric worried it was his wife calling, but he also knew better. Laura rarely dialed his number anymore. Wednesdays were her early shift at the dry cleaner’s, but she had, for the last few months, been driving to Marine Lab in Corpus after work. She volunteered a few times a week, stayed out there until dinner. Later, sometimes. When she came home, she was dog-tired and smelled of frozen herring. She wore an expression, so transparent to Eric (and, he feared, to Griff), of practiced contentment. She would update them on Marine Lab—currently, they were rehabbing a bottlenose dolphin that had beached on the National Seashore—then listen to Griff and Eric talk about their days; Griff usually told them about his skateboarding, and Eric spoke of his seventh graders or other faculty members. If there was nothing to report, he’d invent a sweet or comic story to buoy their spirits. On Wednesdays, he always steeled himself for the question of what he’d done after class, but Laura never asked. It was just another thing they didn’t discuss. Eventually she would excuse herself from the table, kiss Griff on his head, then retire to the bedroom. More often than not, the sun was still in the sky, syrupy and molten, coppering the early-evening surfaces.

When Eric shut off the shower, there was only the steady hum of the air conditioner. Tracy might still be lying across the bed, her eyes closed and her dark hair wild on the pillows, or she might have already stripped the sheets and taken them to the washer. He dried himself with a thick towel, stepped too carefully from the tub. For years, he’d had an unfounded fear of falling in the bathroom, of cracking his skull on porcelain. He’d known no one who’d suffered such a fall, and yet the risk felt familiar and menacing, as if he’d suddenly grown ancient and infirm in the shower. In Tracy’s bathroom, the vanity was marble-topped, sharp-edged and expensive. The whole condo brimmed with upgrades—Saltillo tile, a Viking range, one air-conditioning system for the first floor and another for the second. Every week, the lavishness sullied him; he wouldn’t let his gaze settle on anything. Now, pulling on his boots, he wished he’d already left.

Villa Del Sol had been built after Southport lost its bid for the naval station. Most of the sandstone condos were owned by people from Corpus or by snowbirds, silver-haired retirees who wintered on the coast and caned their way through the souvenir shops on Station Street. “It’s snowing,” Laura used to say when they’d get stuck behind an elderly driver. They lived in a three-bedroom ranch, a few blocks from the house where Eric had grown up where his father still lived. Their house was drafty, in need of a new roof, double-mortgaged to put up the reward money. Every couple of years he had to raise the foundation with bottle jacks.

But when Villa Del Sol first opened, Eric had driven Laura and the boys to an open house. Justin was nine, Griff was seven. Everyone wore church clothes.

“Who can afford one of these?” Laura said in the living room of the model unit. “No one we know.”

“We’re not that far off,” Eric said, trying to sound assured. “Besides, no charge for looking.”

The boys were in the courtyard, hunting rocks. Griff had recently started collecting them, because Justin did. Laura watched them through the bay window. She said, “Guess what Justin asked me last night.”

“If Rainbow could sleep inside?” he said. Rainbow was their black Lab, a dog Eric had bought from a man selling puppies out of his truck bed on Station Street. Rainbow was a good, affable dog, but she’d recently been relegated to the backyard after Eric woke to find her chewing one of his boots.

“Yes, but something else,” Laura said.

“About cusswords? The other day he asked me if there were any he could say without getting in trouble.”

“He asked me to marry him.”

“Oh,” Eric said. “Smart boy.”

“You don’t think it’s weird?”

“He’s got good taste in women, is what I think.”

Laura paced across the room with her hands clasped in front of her. She looked like a woman in a museum, taking care not to bump into exhibits. Were she a stranger, Eric would’ve been struck with longing as he watched her languid movements. His wife—it still shocked him—was beautiful. She returned to the window to watch the boys.

“What are we doing here, honey? We’re not—”

“I thought it’d be fun,” he said. He crouched in front of the fireplace, trying to figure if it worked. Just for show, he thought.

“I don’t want to live anywhere else. Neither do the boys. We love our house.”

“It was just something to do.”

“Sometimes I worry you feel like you need to give us more.”

He couldn’t remember not feeling that way. Though he hadn’t yet told Laura, he’d just agreed to teach summer school. His plan was to surprise everyone with a vacation over Christmas break. The boys had never left Texas.

“We have everything we need,” she said. Outside, Griff was trying to show Justin a piece of limestone he’d found.

“What did you tell him?” Eric asked, pushing himself up from the fireplace.

“Who?”

“Your suitor.”

She smiled as if he’d paid her a compliment. Her eyes stayed on their sons. “I said I loved him very much, but I was already married.”

“He must’ve been heartbroken.”

“Crushed,” she said. “Utterly crushed. But then I helped him sneak Rainbow into his room and he seemed to recover.”

When Eric stepped from the bathroom, Tracy was standing with her back to him. She peered through her bedroom blinds, watching the two sisters who owned the condo across the courtyard. The women were in their eighties, stooped and wire-haired. Tracy loved spying on them. She’d wrapped herself in a sheet that puddled around her ankles and exposed her back. The knuckles of her spine looked like shells in sand. Laura’s body, he thought, might resemble Tracy’s now; she’d lost weight over the last four years. Twenty pounds, maybe more. And ever since Justin had gone missing, she’d let her hair grow out, a protest of sorts, or a show of solidarity. She’d stopped shaving her legs and under her arms, too. Eric couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen his wife naked.

“I think the sisters’ air conditioner’s busted,” Tracy said. “They’re just sitting at the kitchen table, fanning themselves.”

He was tempted to say he’d walk over and take a look, but checked himself. He didn’t want to run into the sisters later. For old girls, they got around just fine. They drove a Lincoln Continental. Eric said, “After I leave, tell them to have someone check the Freon.”

Revue de presse

Advance praise for Remember Me Like This
 
“It is as a writer that I admire the architecture of Remember Me Like This, the novel’s flawless storytelling. It is as the father of three sons that I vouch for the psychological authenticity of this depiction of any parent’s worst fears. Emotionally, I am with this family as they try to move ahead—embracing ‘the half-known and desperate history’ that they share. I love this novel.”—John Irving
 
“In this deeply nuanced portrait of an American family, Bret Anthony Johnston fearlessly explores the truth behind a mythic happy ending. In Remember Me Like This, Johnston presents an incisive dismantling of an all-too-comforting fallacy: that in being found we are no longer lost.”—Alice Sebold
 
“You could say that this book is ripped from the headlines, but that wouldn’t be fair. Bret Anthony Johnston’s riveting novel picks up where the tabloids leave off, and takes us places even the best journalism can’t go. Remember Me Like This is a wise, moving, and troubling novel about family and identity, and a clear-eyed inventory of loss and redemption.”—Tom Perrotta
 
“Both devastating and transporting, this is the rare novel a reader lives in, so persuasive is the impact, the insight, the heat of south Texas.”—Amy Hempel
 
“This mesmerizing story of loss and redemption on Texas’s Gulf Coast will take you in and hold you and not let go until it’s done with you, leaving you wiping at your eyes with the kind of soul-gratitude that comes only after experiencing true art.”—Andre Dubus III
 
“A brilliantly rendered portrait of a family in the aftermath of trauma . . . Beautifully crafted and so suspenseful you cannot look away, this is a novel as much about what is hidden as what is revealed; the balancing act is nothing short of masterly.”—Jill McCorkle

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 1431 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 385 pages
  • Editeur : Random House (13 mai 2014)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B00GQAOLOY
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
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  • Word Wise: Non activé
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°156.998 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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Amazon.com: 4.0 étoiles sur 5  180 commentaires
51 internautes sur 53 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A dream within a nightmare within a nightmare 24 avril 2014
Par Jill I. Shtulman - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
Bret Anthony Johnston, where have you been all my reading life? For a character-based reader like me, this luminous debut book is sheer manna from heaven. It’s certain to make my personal Top Ten list of 2014.

The concept is deceptively simple: an 11-year-old boy named Justin goes missing one day and is likely abducted. His parents, Eric and Laura, and his younger brother Griffin are all well-liked in their Corpus Christi community; they muddle their way through the four ensuing years, coming apart personally and as a family. And then (no spoiler – it’s in every book blurb), Justin is found.

And there’s where the happy ending comes in. Except…it’s not. The genius of this author is that – without any manipulation – he closely examines what the granting of this fortuitous return really means to each of them. The emotions are so real that the writing took my breath away. Take this description of his mother, Laura: “Those four years had gutted her family. How could she not understand such hideous gravity? Everywhere she looked, the absolute and crushing weight of the past. At times she’d been bloated with sadness, leaden and unmovable. Other times, she would have sworn she was a sieve.” And later: “Life started to feel – what? Not normal. Not familiar. Inhabitable. Navigable.”

There is not one false note in this book. Not one. The writing is assured, confident and clear eyed; the characters are so real they could step out of the pages; and the insights are organic and beautifully realized. There are no huge surprises or “drama for the sake of drama”. These are all good people, regular and steady and seemingly unafflicted. They’re people who – in the aftermath of one of life’s worst traumas— take cautious and struggling steps to deal with a range of unexpected emotions and work mightily to make themselves whole again. It’s not the mythic Hollywood ending to a kidnapping; rather, it’s an achingly intimate view into the emotional canvas of a family damaged by circumstances beyond their control.

I simply cannot recommend this book highly enough. I envy those who are starting it for the first time.
33 internautes sur 36 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Not Easy to Forget 24 avril 2014
Par Steven James - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
REMEMBER ME LIKE THIS picks up where most books end off. Usually, the kidnapped child is found and they all live happily ever after. However in this book the story just begins when Justin Campbell is found after 4 years of abduction. This book focuses on the fallout an event like this has on the family and the community, in this case a small Texas town near Corpus Christi. Each member of the family reacts differently to Justin's return and each is more interesting than the next.

This book seems very timely and current. The reactions of the characters seem realistic and I could see myself in several of them, probably the grandfather most, if truth be told. He is the most vindictive of the bunch. I was pretty much glued to this book from beginning to end and I have since passed it on to a friend who is also enjoying it. I predict this book will be a big hit with book clubs this summer. I only gave it 4 stars because, while I really enjoyed it, it didn't hit home the way I thought it would. Perhaps because I am not a parent myself. If I had children I'm sure my reaction would have been much stronger. I had the same experience when I read THE DEEP END OF THE OCEAN several years ago. My mom raved about it and I liked it a lot, but I wouldn't add it to my all-time favorites list. The same goes with REMEMBER ME LIKE THIS...it is beautifully written, engaging, and suspenseful, but I don't think it will go on my Top 10 list. Definitely worth the read.
18 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 I had forgotten what it was like to read a really great book! 9 mai 2014
Par C. Klaassen - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
Oh boy, going to try not to gush too much about this novel. This is one really great read and I hope to (succinctly) tell you why you should pick it up:

Plot: The novel opens wide with a body floating under a bridge in Corpus Chrisy Texas. No one can tell if it is male or female, old or young but we are assured that none of the witnesses relate it to the local boy, Justin Campbell, " who'd gone missing years before". What comes next is a fantastically crafted story detailing what it is to live after you get your happy ending. Months before that body was discovered, the Campbell family had their happy ending, Justin, who had been missing for over 4 years, was found and returned. The story primarily centers around the impact his return has on the nuclear family. The author very cleverly lets the story glide along buffeting up not only bits from Justin's captivity but also from the lives his parents (Eric and Laura) and brother (Griff) have been living back home. As the story moves forward we also look back. I don't want to say too much more about the overall plot line because I would hate to spoil anything for anyone else, it really is fantastically engaging and original.

Characterization: It is a rare author who can round out a character more by using (internal and external) narrative and dialog rather than descriptive text. Here we get to know our characters through their actions and thoughts and the way other characters perceive them. For example, we know the mother, Laura, is almost unhinged with grief because we are with her as she unspools and we are with others as they react to her. It is refreshing as a reader to be allowed to draw our own conclusions from characters actions and reactions rather than be told what we are to think. These also feel like complex, realistic people reacting in plausible (but highly interesting) ways to a catastrophic event. Both primary and secondary characters are well drawn and the community as a whole is part of the cast too.

Pacing and Tone: I put these two together because as I spent most of the book with my heart in my throat admonishing myself not to rush through it, to take time to enjoy the experience. I was just that anxious to get to the end of the book and find out if that body in the water was one of my people and, if so, how they got there. I told my daughter it was like reading with your nerve endings open and reactive. The story propels you forward and the tone cautions you on. I can't wait to go back now that I have finished the book and savor the experience at a more leisurely pace.

Did I mention that this is also a wonderfully written piece of work? No? Well, it is, truly a terrific read. I could go on and on but I did promise not to gush.

Highly Recommended - Read this book! .
12 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 A bit too much of a good thing 17 juillet 2014
Par davec - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
Bret Anthony Johnston chose a well-worn literary and cinematic premise for this novel, the missing child. However, rather than just formulating a cops-and-perps story, Johnston elected to focus upon the emotional toll exacted by the crime -- and its aftermath -- on the victim's family. He has received much well-deserved praise for this original and challenging approach. Johnston is a polished stylist and wordsmith, with an eye for the details that constitute "everyday life" and "ordinary people." The respect he has for his characters is evident in his meticulous, expansive accounting of what each is experiencing internally. And, for me, therein lies the rub. While I was aware of what Johnston was attempting to do, the detail-to-plot ratio became so excessive that the book, which I really wanted to love, eventually wore thin -- a brilliant narrative stalled under the weight of its own descriptive language. For this reason, I'm giving the book a 3.5. That said, Johnston is a gifted writer, and I'm not done with him. Perhaps I'll have a look at his short-story collection.
20 internautes sur 23 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 "Whoever believed hope was a gift had never lost a son." 5 avril 2014
Par Bonnie Brody - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
Remember Me Like This by Bret Anthony Johnston is a powerful, perceptive, and gut-wrenching book. It pulls at the heart strings without ever being maudlin and invites the reader into a family that is struggling to keep their heads above water while wave after wave pulls them down.

The novel starts off with Eric Campbell involved in an affair. He is a teacher of Texas history at a local high school in Southport, Texas, not too far from Corpus Christi. He sees his lover, Tracy, one day a week after classes. Four years ago, Eric's son, Justin, was kidnapped, and since then his wife, Laura, has been distant and removed, even from her own self. Laura and Eric have another son named Griff who is a high school student and a skate boarder. Recently, Griff has become infatuated with Fiona, his first girlfriend. There is also Cecil, Eric's father, who is an integral part of the Campbell's life.

Justin was eleven when he disappeared. The Campbells have never stopped searching for him. They put up posters, billboards, sent out search parties and have even installed an 800 number. The Campbells have never stopped hoping that Justin is alive, at the same time living always with the fear that he is dead. Laura has continued to buy him birthday and Christmas presents for the whole time he is gone. "This had been her life, wrestling with hope and hell until she'd come to think they were one and the same. Whoever believed hope was a gift had never lost a son."

Each of the family feels guilt for Justin's disappearance and this guilt eats up the very core of their existence. They go through the motions but any real intimacy is lacking. Laura works in a dry cleaning shop but her real love is volunteering at a center for rehabilitating dolphins. There, she dotes on Alice, a dolphin found stranded on land, sick and febrile, who she hopes will make a recovery. Cecil runs a pawn shop and a year after Justin's disappearance, someone brings in his skate board though it does not provide any substantive clues as to Justin's whereabouts.

Four years after Justin's disappearance, Eric gets a call from the district attorney requesting he appear in Corpus. Eric is suspect. They have been called to Corpus Christi on more than one occasion to identify dead bodies and run-aways that were not Justin. This time, however, they have found Justin. He has been in Corpus Christi the whole time, kidnapped by one Dwight Harrell. Both Eric and Laura are ecstatic and they think their life is redeemed.

The novel very brilliantly shows that their lives don't change that dramatically. Though Justin is now home, he is preparing for the trial of Dwight Harrell, seeing a social worker regularly, and his circadian rhythm is switched so that he sleeps days and is up at night. Justin is quiet, reserved, and polite. In fact, he is the least developed character in the book, which I believe is intentional. Once a boy who was petrified of snakes, he now has a pet snake. Laura wonders how this could have happened. She realizes that in four years so much can change and she was not there to see this. Eric keeps his distance from Justin, not knowing how to act around him. Justin occasionally shares some of what happened to him with Griff though the whole family has been instructed not to ask him questions. The book goes a little into Justin's time with Harrell but this is not the novel's focus. The focus is on the family.

People in the community are elated that Justin is home. They make banners, celebrate, send cards and flowers, but the Campbells still flounder. "It's like we were all on a sinking ship and now we're each in our own lifeboat, floating away from each other." People tell them that the worst is behind them but they think, "Really, once the worst happens, it's always happening. It's never not happening."

The characterizations are brilliant. Each and every character in the book comes alive with their own unique and powerful persona. The writing is glorious. So many sentences are gems that I wanted to hold on to and keep at my fingertips. This is a wonderful book of family, loss and courage to face the worst and best that life throws at us.
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