What We Remember – Sarah Echavarre

Published By: Lake Union
Pages: 303
Released On: 10/01/2023

It’s been two years and two months since trauma shattered hospital chaplain Isabel Myles’s world. Since that day, she has stopped answering calls. She’s shut out her family, friends, and coworkers. Even her faith seems to have faded. Except for her connection with her younger sister, Chantel, Isabel copes by forgetting. Then she takes on a summer job as a home caregiver for Opal, a dementia patient who is struggling to remember.

The more invested Isabel becomes in Opal’s vanishing world—and in her devastated grandson, Evan—the more open she is to forming bonds, old and new. She reaches out to her best friend. She repairs the damage between her and her estranged parents. And with Evan she feels emotions she thought were lost forever. But the trauma Isabel’s kept buried for so long will be rediscovered too. What Isabel learns could change her life again, forever. This time, though, she won’t have to face the past alone.

*****

Thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

The first thing that strikes me about this book is how sensitive and caring and respectful it is, about all the topics involved, including social anxiety, mental health, physical illness, loss, grief, childbirth, and most of all, dementia. It is a gentle book with gentle words.

I lost my Nan to dementia in 2016 and so many of my experiences were shown in this book. Luckily, she always seemed to know who I was, but seeing the woman who helped my parents raise me, the woman with whom I spent so much time, the woman who gave me my love of books and reading, and who really was my best friend deteriorate like that, it is horrible. In morbid comparison, I lost my dad the year after from cancer and as hard as that was, he was still himself to the day before he died. Dementia doesn’t give you that. It robs you of the person long before their death and it’s horrible. Sarah has captured this so perfectly – and I wonder if she has had personal experience – it is like looking into a time machine. It is beautiful and had me crying on more than one occasion.

There’s no getting around the fact that this is an emotional punch of a book. I wasn’t expecting the turns it would take and it got to me. The way she is able to depict grief in 300 pages is just beautiful.

I felt Isabel was a good main character. She’s so human, with doubts and hope, joy and sadness. She’s not perfect but she wants to try. I also loved Opal (unsurprisingly, she reminded me of my Nan) and I really liked Keely and Evan. They were great with Isabel and helped her story progress. I don’t think there was a bad character amongst them.

If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself fighting off tears for a majority of the time. In sadness and grief, heartbreak, love and happiness; it’s just a really lovely, beautiful book.

I read it one sitting. It was torrential rain outside, I curled up on the sofa with a cup of tea, and just lost myself in the story. It is my first book of hers but I’ll definitely be reading more.

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