Review: ‘You Believers’ by Jane Bradley

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You Believers

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Author: Jane Bradley

Format: galley (also available in hardcover)

Publisher: Unbridled Books (also on Twitter)

Release Date: 5/03/2011

Length: 416 pages

Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley

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Publisher’s summary:

You Believers is a powerful, cathartic story of casual evil and of how the worst things can be faced so that we might not only survive, but grow. A young woman goes missing, and her mother uproots her life to find her daughter.

But it is not just the heartbreak or the deep mystery of the hunt for lost loved ones that Bradley so convincingly explores. Rather, with the help of an amazingly dedicated searcher, family and friends somehow learn to move past unspeakable horror and celebrate the tenacity of the human spirit.

Offering a vision that is at once ruthless and utterly compassionate, Bradley renders the search for logic, meaning, redemption and even hope in the domino force that is human nature. Part Southern gothic, part crime, part haunting suspense story, You Believers takes us on an infinitely harrowing journey that rewards the reader with insight into how we might endure horrible events with faith, strength, and grace even while it reveals the ripple effects of random violence.

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My thoughts, some spoilers included:

Shelby Waters finds the missing. Sometimes she finds them alive. More often… she doesn’t. And so her job isn’t only about organizing searches, traipsing through fields, forests and marshes or questioning friends, loved ones and potential witnesses to the disappearance of the missing, it’s also about preparing those friends and loved ones for the worst, even if they don’t realize precisely what she’s doing. She tries to incite hope in those whose loved one stepped out the front door one day and just never came home, even as she quietly prepares them for the worst, while using every resource at her disposal to find that person, alive or dead.

Shelby knows loss. She knows tragedy. She was once one of those people who lost someone she loved… her sister Darly. From the start of their search for her sister to the tragic end, she experienced the wide range of emotions that one goes through when looking for a missing loved one: fear, hope, grief, horror, hatred, loss, never-ending sorrow. The loss of her sister prompted her to start REV, or Rescue Effort Volunteers, in order to help people bring their loved ones home, one way or another. She’s seen the worst of people and she’s seen the best. It just seems some days that the worst far outweighs the best and it’s hard to remain optimistic in the face of the horrors that human beings can sometimes inflict upon one another.

Not only do we see the story of the disappearance of 30-year-old Katy unfold from Shelby’s point of view, we also see the thoughts and emotions of Billy, Katy’s fiance as well as those of Livy, her mother, as they hope for the best while fearing the worst. Despite Katy’s step-father and local police playing down the disappearance and making assumptions about where Katy may be, both Billy and Livy know that something bad has happened. Despite Katy’s proclivity to party and run off with other men, those closest to her know that’s not what happened. And as the weeks pass and become months, the hope of finding Katy alive sadly turns into the hope of just finding her, putting her to rest and punishing whoever was responsible for taking her from them.

Lastly, we see the points of view of the men responsible for Katy’s disappearance. We see their thoughts and motivations and their fears. At least, the fears of one of them. The other is fearless. He is evil incarnate and he is scary as hell because he can pretty much pass himself off as a nice, normal kid. But he is far from normal. We don’t see how truly despicable he is until he commits his second crime during the course of the book. The crime that will be his undoing… because his victim escapes.

She tells afterward of a voice that spoke to her in her mind and talked her through her ordeal. A voice that kept her from panicking and essentially gave her the means to not only escape but also to garner enough information from her attacker finger him for another crime… the crime against the missing Katy Connor. She swears afterward that Katy was the one who spoke to her and while she’s sad about the implications of her believe, she’s grateful to have had Katy’s voice and her help. She knows that Katy helped her to survive.

This is a powerful story of loss and grief, and how Katy’s loved ones begin to deal with the pain of her loss and look forward to the future. It’s also a cautionary tale, I think… as it warns of potential evil walking around disguised as someone normal, someone like you, that can change your life and the lives of your loved ones in an instant.


Fave quotes:

‘Katy Connor thought she was safe. She was supposed to be safe at three o’clock in the afternoon in the parking lot of a strip mall on one of the busiest streets in town. She did nothing wrong. She bought a bag of clothes and walked to her truck.’

‘There was still the kindness of strangers out there, even at thirty thousand feet above the world.’ ~Livy Baines

‘Some nights I just want my mind clear of all the awful.’ ~Shelby


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