In a chilling examination of family interactions, Bret Anthony Johnston’s Remember Me Like This reveals the dislocation and eventual reinvention of lives trying to cope with the return of a young boy, four years after he had been kidnapped. Although the plot is similar to Jacquelin Mitchard’s The Deep End of the Ocean with the boy living within blocks of his family before he is discovered, Johnston’s victim, Justin Campbell, suffers abuse and terror as the prisoner of a man whose wealthy family lives nearby. Justin’s grandfather discovers he knows the captor’s father.
Through the four years Justin Campbell has been missing, his family has fallen apart. The author alternates chapters with each family member’s inner thoughts. Justin’s father, Eric, struggles through his days teaching and starts an ongoing affair; his mother vascillates between despair and indifference; his younger brother, Griff, tentatively tries to navigate without his big brother. After endless posters and years of searching, Justin is discovered at a nearby flea market and returned to his family. Justin is older, taller, heavier, but being found is only the beginning of his ordeal and his family’s.
Johnston reveals Justin’s trauma but only subtly hints at the sordid details of his captivity. More shocking are his seemingly normal experiences over those years, and his proximity to his family home. When his captor is released on bail, the action escalates, as Eric and Justin’s grandfather plan to force the kidnapper to leave the country – or kill him.
Remember Me Like This examines the aftershock. How does a family recover? How does the victim heal? Is revenge an option? Although the inner angst is sometimes overworked, the story has the pace of a thriller, and kept my attention.