And Then You Were Gone by R. J. Jacobs

And Then You Were GoneAnd Then You Were Gone by R.J. Jacobs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is set to be published on the 13th of March 2019.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Crooker Lane Books, and the author via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Emily can barely hold together most days, but she’s getting better. Paolo helps with that. Yes, he works long hours at his lab, and she spends most of her time waiting for him to finish work so that they can spend time together, but she also spends the rest of her time helping children. She’s a child psychologist. Being able to help children gives her a purpose. So when Paolo has declared that they will be taking the weekend and renting a boat, Emily should be over the moon. However, she has reservations. Her Bipolar disorder is under control for the most part, but she still has bad days, and the water makes her incredibly nervous. She hasn’t told Paolo directly that she can’t swim, and she’s hoping that she doesn’t have to and they can just spend a relaxing weekend together. After a wonderful first day, Emily wakes up with the regret of drinking wine the day before. Feeling sick and really not enjoying the rocking motion of the boat, she calls for Paolo but he doesn’t answer. After slowly pulling herself together Emily wanders up to the deck to find out what Paolo could be so enthralled with, only to find herself completely alone. No Paolo. No nothing. Alone. Panic sets in and it’s all she can do to barely hold herself together to get back to shore. What happened to Paolo? Where did he go? Why did he leave a woman who suffers with mental illness and the inability to swim along on a boat in the middle of a lake? A story of secrets, sorrow, and a woman, who completely breaks down while trying to find out the truth of what happened the day that her beloved boyfriend disappeared, who is pulled into the investigation and thought of as a suspect. Emily feels like she is the only one who can discover the truth and finally give herself closure. Can she do it? Can she survive it?

So I’ve gone on a bit of a psychological thriller jaunt the last few books. I’ve really taken a shine to this genre. I’ve always loved a good mystery and these ones give me that plus a little bit extra that I struggle to put into words. I was really looking forward to this book when I requested it, though I felt that it was a little bit lacklustre. The premise was SO interesting. A woman wakes up on a boat alone, with no clue as to what has happened to her boyfriend, while also trying to navigate the stress and anxiety of the whole situation living with Bipolar disorder. But it just didn’t grab me the way I’d hope that it would.

First off, Emily was, to me, incredibly unlikable. Yes she suffers with bipolar and yes she’s going through a traumatic experience, but I just found myself becoming increasingly annoyed with her throughout the story. I find that some of the terrible choices she made wasn’t because of her disorder, but because she’s an idiot. It sounds harsh, but that’s the only way I can describe it. It felt like every slightly inconvenient thing that she did, or bad decision that she made, she blamed on her disorder. And I feel like that’s not very accurate. Yes us people with mental illnesses can make bad choices or say stupid things during episodes, but not every single bad choice or stupid comment can be BLAMED on our mental illness, regardless of what that mental illness is. I feel like Emily didn’t take enough responsibility for herself and liked to fob everything off as “oh I have bipolar, I do this kind of thing often.” No, I think sometimes she’s just a shitty person, and it’s not always her bipolar’s fault. I do like that her profession was a psychologist. Yes this isn’t real life, but I have often wondered about whether people with mental illness can make successful psychologists. Not in the way of ‘can they actually help people’ because I believe having a mental illness may help connect to patients easier at times, but in the ability to compartmentalise and let go of what your patients are telling you and confiding in you with. I feel like being a psychologist, one takes on SO MUCH from their patients, that it must be hard to just let it roll back off you and not impact you or your daily life in any way.

Emily’s bipolar. I’ve read books that have centred around mental illness before, and I find myself drawn to them, for obvious reasons. I felt like the representation of Emily’s disorder in this book was a bit stilted. It felt too clinical. Other books that I’ve read about mental illness have had a way of dragging you in and letting you experience this for yourself, in a small way anyway. I felt like this book didn’t do that. I had no empathy toward Emily and her illness at all, which is very strange for me. The super clinical feel may be because the author is/was a psychologist by trade, I’m not sure. I feel like if this was written by someone who lives with bipolar, the feel of the book might have been different. I’m not sure if the author has bipolar or not, but it just didn’t feel authentic to me.

Cal. I hated him at first, but the more that we got to see him and get to know him, I really enjoyed his character. One thing I did like about this book was how real the characters seemed. They all had flaws and issues and that’s great. I hate a book that the characters are very one dimensional and there’s no depth there. They don’t feel real because they’re so damn perfect. The characters in this book were incredibly well written.

The story itself was okay. As I said earlier, I was SO intrigued about this story, but I still feel like it fell a bit short for me. To be honest the only thing that kept me reading was the fact that I just really wanted to know what happened to Paolo, I just needed that question answered and I was done. I couldn’t really care about the rest of the story that much. I was interested in seeing what happened to Emily in the end, but it was kind of secondary to WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO PAOLO?!?!?! The pacing was a bit slow for me, and it felt like it dragged at times. Most of the time it felt like nothing was really happening, Emily was going through her day to day life, well, trying to at least, with this big cloud of uncertainty hanging over her head, but that was it. The story did pick up again when we started finding things out, but it felt a bit all over the place. After Paolo’s disappearance, the story felt like it jumped a fair bit and I found myself having no idea exactly how much time had passed since the disappearance itself.

The mystery side of it was interesting, until I worked out half of it about 60% through. This would have been okay if it was happening the same time as the big reveal, but it didn’t, I had worked out the culprit before the characters and that irks me. I still had no idea what had happened to Paolo, but honestly after the half way mark, it felt like Paolo’s story took a backseat to other things that were happening. Then we find out what happened to Paolo right near the end. It just didn’t feel that greatly constructed to me.

All in all, a pretty mediocre read which was disappointing, I was really hoping I’d love this one. Don’t let my review put you off though, these are just things that I found didn’t work for me, but you might love the story 🙂 If psychological thrillers are your thing, give it a go, it might surprise you. I think I was focusing so much on the mental health side of it and that’s why it didn’t quite work for me.

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