Close to Me: Amanda Reynolds
A fight, an argument, a fall down the flight of stairs in your own home and the next time you open your eyes you are in the hospital wondering why. Rob and Jo have been married for a long time and have two children Fin and Sash and as you get to know them you wonder what kind of a relationship they have with their parents. Sash seems to make time for Jo and have lunch when it’s convenient or she has ten minutes to spare. Fin seems distant and estranged from his father and at times does not open up to either parent. His sallow and hollow appearance lets reader’s know that he seems and appears troubled but the author has not revealed why. Jo Harding comes from a rich background and as we get to know her at the start of the story after falling down a flight of stairs there is an air of mystery and fear surrounding her accident and we begin to wonder just how and why she fell.
Rob for all appearances seems bent on smothering Jo with his attention and wanting her to text him every hour to supposedly tell him she is okay. But, at times you wonder what his real motives are and what he hopes she won’t ever recall. Her headaches get worse and then decline at times but she feels apprehensive and red flags go up when he’s around. Added in his work schedule seems odd and he often comes home late. Flashing back to the present and the progression from when the accident occurs and fast forwards several weeks alerting readers to her progress and her problems with Sash and Fin along with Thomas who is living with Sash yet made a strong pass at Jo you wonder just where this might be going and why both children seem to be harboring some resentment towards her each time she meets or visits with them. Rob is outspoken and speaks his mind and disliking Thomas he does not mince his words where Jo tries to just deal with the inevitable. Then it flashes back to the past to let us learn about the Drop-in Center, meet Rose and Nick who runs it and what happens when Jo and Nick make a fatal mistake. Yet wanting to be there at times she feels volunteering and being close to Nick is wrong and in the present she is reminded of the center from an email sent by Rose and things just might start to reignite in her mind but when?
As the story flashes back we get to know more about Rose from the drop in center and Nick who seems to play a prominent role in Jo’s decline in many ways. At times you wonder if she is sane as she rants and raves, gets drunk and falls prey to the wiles of not only Nick but also Thomas, her daughter’s boyfriend. Memories are returning but not clearly as she realizes that Rob, Fin, Nick and Thomas are hiding important facts about different incidents. Slowly, but surely she decides to become apart of the Drop-in center and at times leaving going to Thomas’s bar or just going home and getting drunk.
Sash remains aloof at times and although she works need the center and at times they meet for a short lunch she too seems distant from both of her parents. Rob is hiding something as each time Jo tries to recall what happened when she fell and seems to picture something about a man in a bed but cannot remember whom or where it is from you wonder if she is hallucinating.
Rob works late and claims it’s because he needs the money to help Sash pay her rent in her new expensive flat, Fin with some his expenses, Jo living the high life but there is one more person in the mix that she has yet to learn about but who? Recalling bits of that night when Rob comes home, she is waiting for him and they fight. Learning from Rose that she was going to leave Rob, leave the center and then revealing as the present and part of her memory returns the truth behind what happened between her and Nick. Lies, betrayals, fear, debt, desperation, fights, cheating, violence and much more are revealed before the final scene is played and the curtain falls. Volunteering at the center is vital to her where Rose becomes her voice or reason but Rob has deleted her digital records of them and her knowledge of them after her fall. Added in every time she encounters Thomas he gets a nasty smirk on his face, a grin implying something yet saying nothing. He is truly someone that Sash does not need but cannot seem to do without. When visiting Fin he alludes to money and her taking all of it or was it him? Jo does not understand the comment. Jo seems to at times feel sorry for herself, gives in to her own frustrations and lack of ability to cope with stress, confrontation or the unknown as she realizes that her role as a parent is tenuous and her relationships with everyone close to her diminishing and at times you wonder if they will disappear. Reminding some at times of someone that likes to map out the course of the lives of others she does not understand that decisions of the heart, mind and soul of others are not always hers to make. When Fin comes at her when his roommate Ryan is not there and says that she does not understand him and the final reveal about him is spoken the reader will see just how shortsighted Jo is and so is Rob when is comes to the needs of others. Rob puts his first and the rest of the world comes last. Jo can’t seem to decide where she belongs even before the accident. Something sets her off each time she’s alone with Rob or even thinks about him and she pictures small pieces of the night and realizes they were fighting but over what? Then Rob seems to be playing mind games with her and at times gas lighting her so she thinks one thing and forgets or does not see or is not able to see the reality of anything.
Finding herself outside of the bar where Thomas works or even at times wondering where he might be the author reveals through Jo her confusion, her odd attraction to her daughter’s boyfriend and with the help of Rose things start to fit into place. Slowly but surely the author enlightens readers as Jo and the reader flash back to family gatherings, incidents at the center and living with someone for 24 years whom she thinks she knows but might possibly be a stranger in her husband’s body.
Rob is devious and when Jo wanders in her car in the neighborhood, comes to their old house she sees something odd and Rob going into a house but it’s not hers. Things change when she gets a phone call and follows Rob and the light bulb gets stronger and the fight clearer and you won’t believe the twist and turn the author Amanda Reynolds creates as the truth comes out but not in the way you might think as the reader hears Jo’s voice on page 236 remembering the fight, standing near the edge of the staircase and then did he push her or did she really fall?
Rob opens another door with a key but whose door is it and why is he there? A harsh reality comes to light and just what was he doing when he was supposed to be working and what is the dramatic end result of his actions? Infidelity runs in both directions and in both of paths as Sash, Fin and Rob hide something important about Sash and when it comes out guilt rears its ugly head and Jo has to face another harsh reality.
When deciding to leave Rob at various times the incident that sets her off will change the course of all of their lives as his birthday dinner turns into someone’s nightmare and the harsh truth about that night comes to light? Did he push her? Does he really want their marriage? Some endings are sad beginnings but no one really can control their own destiny unless the mist or fog is lifted from in front of eyes and they see the clear sky and the truth comes blinding their sight. Characters that represent some real life situations but one woman that is blindsided in many ways and yet sometimes she does it to herself with self-denial or denial. What will be the final outcome as the author puts it all together in a unique and different manner when one woman relives her lost year along with readers and finds out when some betrayals, betrayers, liars and cheats are some of the people you hold dear and as Jo would say were once CLOSE TO ME!
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine