Monday, August 29, 2016

Review: The Things We Knew

The Things We Knew
By Catherine West
Thomas Nelson, 2016


A tragedy from the past resurfaces in this tale of family secrets and reignited love.

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 harbor animosity toward their father, silently blaming him for their mother's death. Nobody will talk about that dreadful day, and Lynette can't remember a bit of it.

But when next-door neighbor Nicholas Cooper returns to Nantucket, he brings the past with him. Once her brother's best friend and Lynette's first crush, Nick seems to hiding things from her. Lynette wonders what he knows about the day her mother died and hopes he might help her remember the things she can't.

But Nick has no intention of telling Lynette the truth. Besides the damage it might cause his own family, he doesn't want to risk harming the fragile friendship between him and the woman he once thought of as a kid sister.

As their father's failing health and financial concerns bring the Carlisle siblings home, secrets begin to surface---secrets 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 all they ever believed in.

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My thoughts

“The truth will set you free.”
- John 8:32

I couldn’t help but think of these words of Jesus as I made my way through Catherine West’s exquisite novel, The Things We Knew, for they reflect the essence of this beautiful story. Grace, mercy, forgiveness and hope are very much present also, but truth is foundational.

Whether you classify this story as contemporary romance or women’s fiction, it resembles the type of novel that I used to read in the general market and have long wished to see more of in Christian fiction. The Things We Knew is a family drama centered around Lynette Carlisle and her four siblings, and it has everything that makes for a memorable read – idyllic setting, rich characterization, sweet romance, mystery, a plot that engages the emotions, and a spiritual message reflected through the characters’ struggles and victories.

I’ve been blessed to visit Nantucket and it’s hard for me to describe the feel and beauty of this small island community, but Catherine has conveyed this so vividly that I could almost hear the waves break on the shore of the Carlisle family estate. There’s a realism reflected in this dysfunctional family and serious elements are treated with sensitivity – alcoholism, drug addiction, Alzheimer’s, etc. There’s also a spiritual reality that I think many readers will relate to, and that’s how “life” sometimes causes us to drift away from a childhood faith until circumstances lead to a renewal or rediscovery.

I was drawn to Lynette, who anchors the story, from the very first page. She has a fierce determination in the face of several daunting obstacles, loves her family, and freely shares her faith. Tension builds and layers are slowly peeled back as Lynette’s siblings return to Nantucket and are forced to confront the truth. The rekindling of a lost friendship with Nick that slowly builds into something more is also a delight.

Catherine is an excellent writer and she doesn’t waste a single word. There’s a strong ensemble of supporting characters, and each one is important to the intricacies of the story. And I have to mention one brother who touched me so much that I long for his story to be told, and that is Gray.

Several important messages stand out:  grace – both the giving and receiving of it – and hope that helps us rise above seemingly hopeless situations. And finally, truth . . . “Truth that had the power to blast though thick concrete walls that secrets and deceit hid behind. Truth that overshadowed lies, spoke of grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Truth that bought revelation and healing.”

Highly recommended.


Catherine West writes stories of hope and healing from her island home in Bermuda. When she's not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border collie for long walks on the beach or tending to her roses and orchids. She and her husband have two grown children.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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  1. yes! Beautifully expressed - this is one of my fave reviews for The Things We Knew, Carole! And I'm #teamGray too ;)

  2. Thank you, Carole! I am so glad you enjoyed The Things We Knew!