Harper Collins – Impulse Australia, April 1, 2016.
Aimless and unsure of her future, Rachel has just returned to her childhood home in Chicago after finishing college. She takes a job in a coffee shop in her old neighbourhood, which she seems to enjoy, even though her parents think she is wasting her life. It is 1975, but being back in her old surroundings brings back Rachel’s memories of her turbulent adolescence and the loss of a close friend in 1969.
The novel jumps back and forth between these two time periods, as Rachel reconnects with her old friend Joey and they reminisce about the past. Back in 1969, some of their friends became involved with drugs, leading to the death of Rachel’s boyfriend Bando. It was an apparent suicide, but Joey has other information – he tells Rachel that he thinks it may have been a murder. Joey and Rachel spend their nights in the back room of a seedy bar, drinking cheap beer even though Rachel seems to be a recovering alcoholic. Her memories of Bando lead her to drink more than ever.
After graduation, Rachel had planned to move to California with her boyfriend Paul, but she finds herself unable to move on until she comes to grips with her past. Rachel becomes obsessed with Bando’s death, and puts her own life at risk, meeting with dangerous people from her past in order to uncover the truth. However, when she does find out what really happened, she realizes that it isn’t so easy to place the blame on the person who is at fault for Bando’s death.
As she moves between 1975 and 1969, Rachel realizes there are two versions of herself – in the past, she was known to her friends as Cookie, and she seems to be slipping back into that former personality, aided by her increased drinking. Cookie was naïve and idealistic, believing the best about the bohemian crowd she spent time with, and disregarding the ominous clues about their involvement in drugs and violence. In the present, Rachel eventually realizes that she can hold on to the positive memories from her past, while still moving forward as the person she is today.
The dreamy, evocative passages bring the 1960s and 1970s to life. Jumping between short scenes increases the pace of the novel, making the reader feel compelled to find out what happened to Bando, and what will happen to Rachel. The time jumps are confusing at first, but once you get into the rhythm, the novel is almost impossible to put down. Although the final scenes seem a bit far-fetched, this novel is more about atmosphere than realism, and I think it succeeds in bringing this gritty historical setting to life.
I received this book from Harper Collins – Impulse Australia and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.