“We Were Never Here”

College friends Kristen Czarnecki and Emily Donovan have not seen each other in a year. For Emily, that year was pockmarked by panic attacks, nightmares, and screaming. Emily shares all this in a first person narrative; she talks to readers as if talking to a good friend, a confidant. She shares her evaluations, expectations, and fears about the world around her, and she has a lot to be afraid of, or at least she thinks she does. Bartz sets the stage as Emily reviews her past, how it changed the course of her life, and how it brought her to this untenable situation. Emily’s admiration for Kristen oozes from her heart like an egg’s soft yolk. They have experienced a lot together, things good, bad, and, well, criminal. Kristen has adapted to her new job and has recovered from their past “unfortunate travel” problems. Emily? Not so much; all those “things” haunt her and interfere with her ability to get through each day.

There is a disconnect, a contradiction, between what each woman communicates to the other and what Emily recounts to the reader. Readers wonder about Emily’s credibility and memory.  Is she simply unlucky, being manipulated, or truly delusional? For Emily; life is jerky and unnatural, like an old black-and-white film. Yet, the evidence accumulates; the bodies pile up, and the pieces come together in a surprising way.

Bartz shocks readers with a story that is like stepping into a mine shaft where the only path is downward into the chilly dark. Reading this book is like riding a wooden roller coaster clicking and clattering as it ascends and then plunges wildly down the hill. I received a review copy of “We Were Never Here” from Andrea Bartz, Ballantine Books, and Random House publishing. The book is filled with contradictions, suspense, and beautiful language. Here is an example:

“The day cracked open like an egg, sunlight nosing against the windows and then pushing inside with sudden vigor.”