Remember Me Like This: A Novel

Overview

A gripping novel with the pace of a thriller but the nuanced characterization and deep empathy of some of the literary canon?s most beloved novels, Remember Me Like This introduces Bret Anthony Johnston as one of the most gifted storytellers writing today. With his sophisticated and emotionally taut plot and his shimmering prose, Johnston reveals that only in caring for one another can we save ourselves.
 
Four years have passed since ...

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Remember Me Like This: A Novel

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This item will be available on May 13, 2014.
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Overview

A gripping novel with the pace of a thriller but the nuanced characterization and deep empathy of some of the literary canon’s most beloved novels, Remember Me Like This introduces Bret Anthony Johnston as one of the most gifted storytellers writing today. With his sophisticated and emotionally taut plot and his shimmering prose, Johnston reveals that only in caring for one another can we save ourselves.
 
Four years have passed since Justin Campbell’s disappearance, a tragedy that rocked the small town of Southport, Texas. Did he run away? Was he kidnapped? Did he drown in the bay? As the Campbells search for answers, they struggle to hold what’s left of their family together.
 
Then, one afternoon, the impossible happens. The police call to report that Justin has been found only miles away, in the neighboring town, and, most important, he appears to be fine. Though the reunion is a miracle, Justin’s homecoming exposes the deep rifts that have diminished his family, the wounds they all carry that may never fully heal. Trying to return to normal, his parents do their best to ease Justin back into his old life. But as thick summer heat takes hold, violent storms churn in the Gulf and in the Campbells’ hearts. When a reversal of fortune lays bare the family’s greatest fears—and offers perhaps the only hope for recovery—each of them must fight to keep the ties that bind them from permanently tearing apart.
 
Advance praise for Remember Me Like This
 
“A convincing and uplifting portrait of a family in crisis.”Publishers Weekly

“An admirable achievement . . . The story starts where other stories might end. . . . [Readers] will find their expectations continually defied as characters refuse to follow a formulaic plot trajectory. . . . This is ultimately an uplifting reading experience owing to the believable love and warmth of the family.”Library Journal (starred review)
 
“A sensitive and frequently suspenseful portrait of a family struggling to heal in the aftermath of great trauma.”Booklist

“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

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
03/31/2014
In Johnston’s strong debut, it’s been four years since young son Justin disappeared, and during that time the Campbell family in southern Texas has been slowly crumbling under the strain of their grief. But when Justin, now a teenager, is miraculously returned and his abductor set to stand trial for his crimes, the entire family must join together and help him recover the years he has lost. His mother, Laura, who volunteers at a local aquarium studying dolphins, confronts her own sense of guilt and tries to regain her former lust for life. Her husband, Eric, who has found comfort in the arms of another woman, struggles to speak to his son while he plots revenge on the abductor. And Justin’s younger brother, Griffin, is just trying to be a normal teen, more concerned with deciphering the signals of his tough-talking girlfriend, Fiona, than confronting psychic scars. As the police investigate the kidnapping and Justin’s captor is released before the trial, the tension rises. From the travails of sudden celebrity to the knowledge that the kidnapper is free nearby, the family is tormented. The novel offers a melodrama that tries to sympathetically portray the devastating effects of loss on a family, even (or especially) when the lost are found. Johnston has a talent for drawing well-rounded characters, although verbal excess weighs down the novel’s pace. In the end, this is a convincing and uplifting portrait of a family in crisis. (May)
From the Publisher
Advance praise for Remember Me Like This
 
“A convincing and uplifting portrait of a family in crisis.”Publishers Weekly

“An admirable achievement . . . The story starts where other stories might end. . . . [Readers] will find their expectations continually defied as characters refuse to follow a formulaic plot trajectory. . . . This is ultimately an uplifting reading experience owing to the believable love and warmth of the family.”Library Journal (starred review)
 
“A sensitive and frequently suspenseful portrait of a family struggling to heal in the aftermath of great trauma.”Booklist

“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

Kirkus Reviews
2014-02-20
Lost and found: Years after he disappeared, a child is restored to his family in this appealing debut. Justin Campbell leaves home with his skateboard and vanishes into thin air. His family (parents Eric and Laura, grandfather Cecil, kid brother Griff) posts fliers of the 11-year-old in their hometown, Southport, and in the South Texas port city of Corpus Christi, an hour away. That was four years ago. The unresolved mystery has strained the cohesiveness of the Campbells. Eric, a history teacher, has begun an affair with a surgeon's wife. Laura has devoted herself to the care of a sick dolphin at an animal rescue lab, while Griff has immersed himself in skateboarding. Deliverance comes when a vendor at a Corpus flea market realizes Justin is her customer. There is boundless joy as the family reunites, for Justin, though eerily calm, is seemingly unharmed. He's been the captive of a man, Dwight Buford, in a Corpus neighborhood, with some license to roam. But of course Justin has been harmed, psychologically (sessions with a social worker ensue) and physically. Johnston doesn't specify the abuse; what interests him is that delicate organism, the nuclear family. The care with which he delineates the "abiding decency" of the Campbells is admirable. What Johnston overdoes is the need of these sweet people to chastise themselves; they're great parents, and Eric was only a halfhearted adulterer. Their interior monologues slow the momentum, and it takes a bombshell (the news that Buford is out on bail) to shake things up. The family threatens to unravel. Eric spends hours watching the Buford home; Laura withdraws into herself; and Griff's relationship with his first girlfriend is at risk. A crisis erupts that is more manufactured than inevitable, shots are fired, and a body is pulled from the water (as foreshadowed in the prologue). Johnston struggles to balance the family regrouping with the external threat, but his fine detail work augurs a bright future.
Library Journal
★ 03/01/2014
Four years after being kidnapped, the Campbell's teenage son Justin is found alive and returned to them. The reunification of the family is only the beginning of their healing, as parents Eric and Laura and younger brother Griffin must not only reorder their lives and examine the ways in which their layers of grief and guilt pulled their family apart but also come to terms with the horrors Justin faced during his captivity. The story starts where other stories might end, bringing readers intimately into the Campbell family dynamics and giving incisive detail about how each member heals and works toward rebuilding bonds and traditions. This debut novel from Johnston, who has a previous multiple award-winning short story collection (Corpus Christi) under his belt, is an admirable achievement. Readers conditioned by police procedurals will find their expectations continually defied as characters refuse to follow a formulaic plot trajectory. VERDICT Despite the dark subject matter, this is ultimately an uplifting reading experience owing to the believable love and warmth of the family, with all their flaws and weaknesses. [See Prepub Alert, 11/22/13.]—Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400062126
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/13/2014
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 501,384
  • Product dimensions: 6.61 (w) x 9.58 (h) x 1.28 (d)

Meet the Author

Bret Anthony Johnston is the author of the award-winning Corpus Christi: Stories, which was named a best book of the year by The Independent (London) and The Irish Times, and the editor of Naming the World: And Other Exercises for the Creative Writer. His work has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, The Paris Review, The Best American Short Stories, and elsewhere. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts literature fellowship and a 5 Under 35 honor from the National Book Foundation. He teaches in the Bennington Writing Seminars and at Harvard University, where he is the director of creative writing.

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