Published by NAL Trade on September 3rd 2013
Best friends forever until life got in the way. Katherine Hill left her small New England hometown in pursuit of a dream. Now, twelve years later, she’s a high-powered cosmetics executive in Manhattan and a much glossier version of her former self, unrecognizable to her family and old friends. Not that she would know—she hasn’t been home in over a decade.
Laney Marten always swore she’d never get "stuck” in Manchester, Vermont. No, she was destined to live out her glamorous big-city dreams. Instead, she wound up a young wife and mother. That was when her best friend ran out.
When Katherine receives word of an inheritance from former neighbor Luella Hancock, she reluctantly returns home to the people and places she left behind. Hoping for a second chance, she’s met by an unforgiving Laney, her former best friend. And there’s someone else who’s moved on without her—someone she once loved.
Tethered to their shared inheritance of Luella’s sprawling Victorian mansion, Katherine and Laney are forced to address their long-standing grudges. Through this, they come to understand that while life has taken them in different directions, ultimately the bonds of friendship and sisterhood still bind them together. But are some wounds too old and deep to mend?
I adore books based on female friendships particularly when the characters are in their 20’s and 30’s as I have day to day experience of the connections and tensions that come with such bonds and the realisation that things really haven’t changed much since we were teens.
YOU KNEW ME WHEN tells the story of Katherine (Kitty) and Laney – bonding as 11-year-old girls over lemonades in sunshine, their friendship deepened through the emotionally fraught hormone driven teenage years until post-college when everything changed. Kitty moved away leaving best friend Laney behind altering the course of their lives. Brought back together by the death of old neighbour and confidant Luella the two must finally face their pasts in order to move on with their futures. Can broken friendships ever truly recover or will past grudges always keep them apart?
There’s always something about contemporary novels set on the east coast of America that attract me, whether it’s the descriptions of the countryside or the society and politics but I always love this setting and YOU KNEW ME WHEN was no different. Emily Liebert’s story about the dynamics of friendship was compelling. Her prose describing the emotions and hurt that have simmered under the surface for years suddenly spilling over despite the best efforts of our two main characters was excellent and kept me hooked from start to finish.
At its very heart this book is a story of could’ve and should’ve. The regrets we carry with us as we get older, the sacrifices we make in order to end up where we are, not always by our own hand but sometimes the one dealt us by sheer circumstance.
Katherine, a high powered executive in a cosmetics company in New York left Vermont as an uncertain and timid girl, lacking confidence but willing to take the chance to shoot for her dreams despite the cost to her personal relationships. Now older and married to her job she carries with her an air of cynicism that jars with the young Kitty we meet in flashbacks.
Laney who as a child was a firecracker, determined to escape dreary, boring life in Manchester and live a sparkling, sophisticated life in New York finds herself a mother, lacking the spark she once cherished so fiercely, put-upon at work and nowhere near the person she thought she’d be at 22 although she can’t deny the joy her husband and child bring her and while she may not be wealthy she is rich in other ways.
Thrust back together by the death of Luella, the mysterious, glamorous neighbour who guided her charges in ways they never realised affected the course of their live, they are forced to confront both each other and themselves and examine how life carried them so far away from each other and their dreams.
I loved how the novel alternated between the present and the past as we gained an insight into how Laney and Kitty’s friendship both evolved and disintegrated as the events that led to Kitty’s eventual departure unfolded. The emotion that fuelled their behaviour towards each other then and now was compelling to read about and it showed the fragility of friendship when in times of stress words uttered in the heat of the moment can change the course of a person’s life forever.
YOU KNEW ME WHEN is a sweet, captivating tale of friendship and the wishes, wants and stumbling blocks that direct its path through life’s many avenues and turns and how with desire, trust and love it can evolve into something more than was once thought possible.