Have you ever wondered what would happen if everyone thought you were dead and went on without you? Obviously your job would disappear but what about your boyfriend and close friends? Would they move on quickly or slowly, grieving your supposed death and unable to move forward without you? And if they'd all adjusted, what would happen if you came back, not gone forever after all? Could you claim your old life again? What changes would you make? Or would you just desparately wish for things to go back to the way they were before your disappearance? This is the premise in Catherine McKenzie's newest novel Forgotten.
Emma Tupper is a workaholic attorney who is very good at her job. She is smart, dedicated, and driven. She's perfectly content to subsume her entire life in work as she eyes the brass ring: being named as partner at her law firm. Even her boyfriend is a part of her work life, a fellow lawyer, he understands and encourages her drive and all the sacrifices she makes to get ahead. But when her mother dies and leaves Emma a trip to visit Africa, a journey her mother always longed to make but never did, Emma does the inexplicable and takes time off for this trip that meant everything to her mother even though it certainly means that her partnership will be put off for at least another year. The trip will change everything for Emma. She gets terribly sick and is left at a mission in a village to recuperate. Just as she's getting back on her feet, a massive earthquake hits the city she's supposed to be in and she is listed among the missing. It is months later before she can get out of the village and find a flight home. Six months missing and incommunicado in Africa, Emma was presumed dead by everyone except her best friend. But Emma doesn't know this as she arrives home. All she knows is that her car is missing from the airport lot, her key won't work in her apartment lock, her ATM card doesn't work, her bank account is frozen, and her boyfriend and best friend are not answering their phones to provide an explanation. Eventually she gets into her apartment building only to discover that a man named Dominic is moving into her apartment. Nothing has stayed the same while she was gone, even more than she knows.
As Emma resumes her old life the best she can and works through the myriad of feelings she faces with the upheaval of her once carefully ordered life, she has to examine everything that she's based her life on the past couple of years and to decide what of her old life she wants to continue on with in her new life. She has to do a lot of soul searching about her job, her love life, and her priorities. And even as she's sorting through all of that, she must also be realistic about what she wants from Dominic who has been kind enough to allow her to live in her old and his new apartment while she figures things out. He has some tough things of his own that he is working through and so his tolerance for and prolonged understanding of her situation is a huge kindness.
This is a cute novel with a very different premise. It takes Emma some time to really sort out her feelings about all the pieces of her life but she is very honest about them, examining them closely and then accepting or rejecting them knowing full well all of their pluses and minues. Her life has been thrown into chaos and so as a character she is often a bit befuddled but the reader can be sympathetic because she's been thrown such a curveball it would be hard for her to be the competant and take-charge woman she was in her previous life. Change is certainly inevitable for everyone but most people don't get such a huge dose of it all at once. Dominic as a character is lovely but even he has limits, making him more realistic than he might have been if he'd allowed Emma to move in and then just gone with the flow. McKenzie has written in some nice touches, such as Emma appearing on the local morning show as the woman who came back from the dead, the relentlessness the press shows in trying to reunite her with her old life, and the draw of publicity for her law firm. What Emma ultimately chooses to do with her newly assembled life has some surprises to it although readers will definitely not be disappointed with her final decisions. A sweet book about growth and change and being comfortable and happy and right in your life, readers looking for chick lit with heart and intelligence will find this right up their alley.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.