Carlino’s sixth novel is a twofer: a book within a book—a fascinating mix of past and present, childhood and adulthood—that takes us back and forth in time and leaves us at the edge of the future.
Emiline and Trevor are in a stale but stable relationship when Emi’s roommate gives her a copy of the latest bestseller. As she reads the much-acclaimed debut novel, Emi realizes with shock that it’s about her hardscrabble childhood, with details so accurate that she knows immediately it was written by Jason, her first love, whom she hasn’t seen in over 10 years, “who had once been [her] everything...[her] first.” Painful memories surface and vie with the hurt and anger she feels toward him for dropping out of her life and stealing the story that’s hers to tell and, worse, writing it as if she were the narrator. The chapters alternate between Emi’s current life and her childhood, with the most compelling parts of the book being the retelling of her youth. The grown-up Emi proves a little obtuse and more naïve than expected given her introspective nature as a child; however, it’s clear that the pain of Jason’s abandonment has clouded her vision. She struggles to reconcile the past and present and her feelings for her two loves. Readers may feel the urge to say, “Emi, seriously! Finish reading the book!” She stalls, taking forever to reach the last chapter, where, of course, it all falls into perspective. Still, there are twists and turns that will keep readers guessing.
Carlino fans will love this one, and so will readers who have not yet made her acquaintance. The tale is engaging and paced to keep the pages turning long after the lights should be out.