Flatiron Books | 2019
Opening Hook: Phone, keys, wallet.
Main Character: JUST ANSWER THE FUCKING QUESTIONS!
Plot Twisty-ness: 👉👌
What in the actual fuck?
Why did you do this to me, Feeney?!
Sometimes I Lie was one of my more favourite reads last year, so I was pretty pumped up to read the second offering from this author, but unfortunately, I’m W-T-F-ing all over the place.
I mean, seriously. Why? Why that ending?
I should have fucking known I was going to be disappointed by this.
Clue number one: some of the most reliable thriller reviewers around these parts gave this book one fucking star.
Clue number two: My buddy Lori (@mylifewithbooksandbeans on Insta if you’re looking for a gem bookstagrammer to follow,) sent me her ARC copy from the US -yes, literally PAID shipping to send me this book – just because she wanted me to write a review.
People don’t want me to write reviews about books they think I’ll love, okay? I might not know where most countries are on a map, but I know that much.
Sometimes I Lie was built around what I thought was kind of brilliant thriller writing – throwing so many tropes at the novel that the reader can’t help but get caught up in the craziness, making it an addictive, page-turning experience.
The author tries a similar style in her second novel, I Know Who You Are, but unfortunately, it seems like there were so little thriller tropes left over to use, save for incest, that Feeney instead, kind of… just a little bit… went fucking bat-shit in plot details with this one.
Aimee Sinclair is an actress just starting to break out after years as a B-list star. She’s taking meetings with David Fincher, wrapping up a movie with another A-list actor and her agent is throwing script offers at her endlessly.
Despite all her success, the only thing Aimee really wants is a baby with her husband, Ben. For the first 90% of the novel, the whole “I’m a successful career woman but I just can’t wait to fill up my womb” was really bugging the hell out of me. Though there’s a thread-tying reason for that in the end, it was still kind of a gross way to ruin a character for the majority of the book and I can’t help but wonder if it was necessary to mention it so often.
While Aimee is lamenting her empty uterus and skyrocketing stardom, her controlling and abusive husband, Ben, goes missing.
Usually I love a missing spouse/guilty spouse storyline (Feeney even goes so on the fucking nose as to literally reference Gone Girl at one point,) but what I can’t stand is when the only reason a spouse looks guilty is that they do nonsensical things that make them seem totally guilty.
Aimee spends much of her time answering the detectives’ questions in such an evasive way that she leaves them no choice but to think she did something to her husband. And then she kind of has an affair which is made very public, because, hello, famous. Meanwhile, we get that italic inner dialogue that continually goes something like, I have the answer and I should say the answer but I don’t feel like giving them the answer because being honest with people is very hard for me, also my traumatic past!
BITCH ARE YOU JOKING ME RIGHT MEOW?
As with Feeney’s first novel, her writing is technically fabulous. I love her style. It’s minimalist, only focusing on what propels the story forward and offering just enough detail to let a reader’s imagination run wild. So I can’t find any fault there and it’s the reason this is getting the rating I’m giving it.
I save my one stars for truly raging dumpster fires. And my three stars go for things that cross that line over into “okay” or “meh.”
This wasn’t a dumpster fire. But it wasn’t just okay either because it evoked some strongly negative feelings in me.
Aimee is annoying from the first page to the last, quite literally. When she wasn’t worried about her unfertilized eggs, she was worried about what everyone thinks about her. She was a relentlessly self-conscious downer and I was kind of hoping it would turn out that she’d really snapped and killed her husband, because at least then she’d be displaying a different layer to her personality.
Spoiler alert, that’s not what happened.
Much of the novel is dual storylines – Aimee as an adult and Aimee as a child dealing with a fucked up family situation. While I can understand that her past influenced her future behaviour, there is still a line I draw where your shitty childhood stops being a valid excuse for your adult behaviour.
Aimee is almost 40, walking around like a sad dope, unable to find her backbone to tell the detectives, “I didn’t kill my husband and here are my thoughts on the matter.”
You’re a grown ass adult, Aimee! If you can’t find a little control of your own life when you’re accused of murder, then honestly, what is even the fucking point?
I fully recognize that adults like Aimee exist in real life – I know a few – but why make someone like that the main character in a book? No one really likes hanging around them. Why would I want to hang out with one as a protagonist?
The only real answer I can come up with is that it serves the plot. Making Aimee so weak and odd allows for the plot to unfold in such a way that she’s thought guilty of what happened to her husband. And that is just lazy plotting, in my opinion.
If you can’t make the plot work with a stronger character that can give information to the police, instead of fretting and keeping it to themselves, then something has gone wrong with the plot.
And then there was that ending. I’ll try to keep my complaints here as vague as possible, but here’s a warning to be careful in reading on if you don’t want to know anything at all.
I get wanting to shock the reader with a twist. I get that Feeney’s last book was so jam-packed with twists that there wasn’t much left to do that wouldn’t be a repeat. I get being disturbed or made to be uncomfortable by a twist and usually I welcome that. But, something about the “I don’t see a way out that doesn’t involve sex” bit was a little much for me on top of all the other ridiculous, suspension-of-disbelief-required plot choices.
There are a few reviews that are giving TWs for things like child abuse, but I’m really not sure why. In my view, the book was pretty mild and not at all graphic, save for a couple of small moments. If you’re sensitive to mentions of darker things, maybe you want to prepare yourself.
But, prepare especially for how everything is revealed and wrapped up in the end. Because it’s fucking out there.
Honestly, despite Aimee being a terrible main character and how lazy the plot was, I still enjoyed this book for the most part. It has the “page-turner” appeal and Feeney’s technical writing skills are on point. I read this pretty fast considering I was doing a bedroom reno and then had a terrible head cold. Had the ending been different, we might be looking at a higher rating.
But that fucking ending…
What a way to go.
l Know Who You Are is the brilliant tale of two stories. One is about Aimee Sinclair—well-known actress on the verge of being full-on famous. If you saw her, you’d think you knew her. One day towards the near-end of her shoot on her latest film, Aimee comes home from filming to find her husband’s cell phone and wallet on the dining room table. He never goes anywhere without them. But he’s nowhere to be found. She’s not too concerned—they had a huge fight the night before. They both said things they didn’t mean. He might have done things he didn’t mean, things she can’t forget. Even though she has a history of supposedly forgetting. After all, she’s a very good actress.
The next morning she goes for her morning run and then goes to her favourite coffee shop. But her card is denied. When she calls the bank they say her account has been emptied of $10,000. She immediately suspects her husband. But they say no, it was Aimee herself who closed out the account. And thus begins a bizarre rabbit hole into which Aimee finds herself falling where nothing is at it seems.
Alternating with Aimee’s story is that of a little girl who wandered away from home. We always tell our kids not to talk to strangers or bad things will happen. Well, bad things happen.
In I Know Who You Are, Alice Feeney proves that she is a master at brilliantly complicated plots and twists after twists.