Book Review: You Knew Me When by Emily Liebert

You Knew Me When book coverTitle: You Knew Me When
Author: Emily Liebert
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Copyright: 2013
Publisher: Penguin Group
Pages: 336
ISBN-13: 9780451419446

I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Should we sacrifice our dreams for love? Author Emily Liebert raises the question in her début novel You Knew Me When. The story centers around Katherine Hill who shortly after her mom dies moves with her dad to Manchester, Vermont. Katherine’s new home in Manchester nestles beside a large home owned by Luella Hancock, a widow with an interest in Katherine’s well-being. Next to Luella live the Drakes, a open-hearted family whose daughter, Laney, befriends Katherine.

Laney and Katherine spend middle school, high school, and college planning their exodus from their small town. When the plans fail, youthful stubbornness wedges itself between the best friends causing a rift that lasts years until the death of a friend forces Laney and Katherine to confront their pasts and assess their current lives.

The viewpoints switch chapter by chapter from Laney to Katherine; the parallel plots merge in the third act of the story where the two friends tackle the book’s main inquiry with opposing answers. Liebert braids sub-themes about how one’s childhood influences adult decisions, how one’s past can prejudice advice given to the young, and how women face unique challenges in business.  

Liebert does not soapbox. The feminist hints in the story bolster the realism of Katherine’s transformation. At one point, Katherine reflects on a colleague’s career-oriented wife: “Pregnancy and children were considered unacceptable, even humiliating excuses when offered by female executives. But, then, if you were a woman without kids in your mid-thirties, like Katherine, you were considered frigid and unforgiving, unable to relate to the bottomless pit of warmth, devotion, and empathy reserved only for mothers.”  Katherine’s feminism whispers into the narrative, never overpowering the main theme nor distracting from the pace of the well-told story.

You Knew Me When reads quickly. Pick up or download a copy for your next holiday weekend.