The Things We Knew (Catherine West) – Review

5 stars


Publisher’s Description
After her mother’s death twelve years ago, Lynette Carlisle watched her close-knit family unravel. One by one, her four older siblings left their Nantucket home and never returned. All seem to blame their father for their mother’s death, but nobody will talk about that tragic day. And Lynette’s memory only speaks through nightmares.

Then Nicholas Cooper returns to Nantucket, bringing the past with him. Once Lynette’s adolescent crush, Nick knows more about her mother’s death than he lets on. The truth could tear apart his own family—and destroy his fragile friendship with Lynette, the woman he no longer thinks of as a kid sister.

As their father’s failing health and financial concerns bring the Carlisle siblings home, secrets surface that will either restore their shattered relationships or separate the siblings forever. But pulling up anchor on the past propels them into the perfect storm, powerful enough to make them question their faith, their willingness to forgive, and the very truth of all the things they thought they knew.


“Nick . . .”  She gave up the fight and let the tears come.  “I don’t know if I can do this.  I don’t think I can cope anymore.”  The words choked her, bringing with them inexplicable sorrow and grief she’d never acknowledged.
Not out loud.
“Oh, Lynnie.”  Nick moved closer and slid his hands around her face.  The warmth of his touch penetrated her cold skin; she shivered.  “What can I do?”
“I don’t know,” she whispered.  The thing she feared most stepped out of the shadows, looming bigger and darker than the clouds above them, daring her to pay it homage.
“You’re shaking.”  Nick rubbed her arms and pulled her closer.
“I don’t like storms.”  It was impossible to explain such an irrational fear so she didn’t bother.  Lynette met Nick’s eyes and knew she had to trust him.  There was no one else.  “If I tell you something . . . will you just . . . don’t think I’m crazy.”
“I don’t think you’re crazy.”  He looked like he meant it, but he’d be taking back those words.
“I . . . have these dreams.  Well, just one.  It’s always the same.  About my mother.  She’s trying to tell me something.  I think . . . about the day she died . . . because I can’t remember.”
“What do you mean?”  He stared at her as though trying to unlock all her secrets.
“I mean . . . I can’t remember what happened that day.  I wish I could.”
“You don’t remember?”  He gently brushed her wet hair off her face.  “Anything?”
“Only bits and pieces, but they’re so hazy it doesn’t feel like they’re really memories at all.”
He squeezed her hands, the corners of his mouth taking a downward detour.  “You were just a kid.  They said her death was an accident, right?”
“What if it wasn’t?  What if there’s more to it?”
His eyes widened and clouded over.  “Like what?”
Silence stretched between them, broken by another rumble of thunder that made her pulse skip several beats.
“I don’t know.”  Tears stung as last night’s vision played out in her mind.  And the sound of her mother’s scream still rang in her ears.  “I’m scared Nick.”


My review
This was such a satisfying read!  If you love a good family drama without the soap opera froth, then I suggest you get yourself a copy of this book.  Not only were there many layers to the plot, but there were so many different relationship dynamics – both familial and romantic; creating friction, but at the same time refining the characters and moving them forward.  And the tension was felt not just in what was said, but in what went unsaid. Basically, it had me hooked from beginning to end.

There are two parts to the main plot in this book.  The first is getting to the bottom of exactly what happened the day Lynette’s mother died.  Lynette was there when her mother fell down the stairs, but her memory is a blank, except at night when the same dream comes to haunt her again and again.  She is trying to access those memories through painting what she can remember from her dream, hoping that it will finally put the past to rest.  But the clearer her picture becomes, the more she wonders whether the truth will destroy rather than bring closure.

Nick Cooper wasn’t there when Lynette’s mother fell down the stairs to her death, but he knows about other things that were going on at that time.  The only person he ever spoke to about it was Lynette’s brother Gray – his best friend – but Gray was so outraged he punched him and they haven’t spoken since.  That was five years ago, and prompted Nick’s sudden departure from Nantucket.

The other part to the plot is the pressure Lynette is under, both as the sole carer for her father, whose memory is deteriorating, and as the only financial contributor to the upkeep of Wyldewood, the family home.  It has fallen into significant disrepair in recent years and, thanks to their father’s previous struggles with drinking and gambling, there are few savings left to draw on.  She’s barely even meeting the day-to-day living expenses, and unless she can improve their financial position, they may have no choice but to sell the property.

The one silver lining to these clouds is that the terms of their mother’s Will require all five siblings to be together at Wyldewood to discuss any action involving the family home, so maybe – finally – Lynette  will get the support she has been desperately needing from her older siblings.

It is against this backdrop that the familial and romantic tensions play out.  Having just returned to Nantucket at his father’s behest, Nick is quick to reconnect with and support Lynette, but it often conflicts with both his father’s and his former girlfriend’s expectations and demands on his time. Lynette is once bitten, twice shy when it comes to Nick, especially when she hears conflicting stories about his involvement with model Mindy Vanguard.  I loved the way their relationship developed, with just the right combination of tenderness, attraction, and uncertainty.

The Carlisle siblings also begin returning to the family home, bringing both their guilt at not being more available to Lynette and the weight of their own personal problems.  Gray’s story is the most compelling, so much so that he is a third point-of-view character in the novel.  His musical success has come at a high personal cost, and he lands on the doorstep at Wyldewood fresh out of a half-completed stint at rehab, with a van full of luggage, a bag full of regrets, and his pint-sized manager, Victoria Montgomery, in tow.  And he hasn’t forgiven or forgotten when it comes to Nick Cooper.  As much as I loved Nick and Lynette, there is a definite soft spot in me reserved just for Gray!

All of this is just scratching the surface of this novel, but I’ll leave you to discover the rest on your own.  I will just say that the main reason this novel was so satisfying was that Catherine West totally nailed the many and varied relationship dynamics and the way they developed over the course of the novel.  So complex, but so well portrayed.  And then there is the ending.  I could feel the rightness and the relief.

Just do yourself a favour and go get a copy!

I received a complimentary copy of this novel through BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Buy from:                       Amazon US icon us-flag-small                                  Amazon US icon australian-flag small

Release date:  12 July 2016
Pages:  352
Publisher:  Thomas Nelson
Author’s website:

About Fiction Aficionado

Homeschooling mum, word lover, reader extraordinaire, and follower of Christ
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, New Releases and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Things We Knew (Catherine West) – Review

  1. Cathy West says:

    Welcome to #teamgray 🙂


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