Ellie Enderlin is a professional coffee buyer who, generally speaking, has a pretty normal and good life. Except for the fact that twenty years ago her older sister, Lila, was murdered. Her beautiful, brilliant big sister, who she loved and respected more than anyone else in the world. Ellie never stops thinking about her sister, but she also never truly expects to find out what happened to her. Until one day, in a remote part of South America, she runs into someone from Lila’s past – and he gives Ellie her sister’s journal, something she thought had long ago disappeared. Now it’s Ellie’s job to figure out if the journal, and this long-forgotten stranger from her sister’s life, can show her what really happened to Lila.
I read and loved Michelle Richmond’s The Year of Fog this time last year, so when I was offered the opportunity to review No One You Know I of course jumped at the chance. I was definitely hoping to love this novel, and it really didn’t disappoint me, which is wonderful. Ellie is a great character, and as she is the force that propels the novel, I’m very happy that I believed in her. I didn’t particularly like her, especially since I thought so many of her decisions were both weird and/or stupid – but I believed her as a flawed, realistic person. She was dealing with so much grief, for so many years, and had all these unanswered questions – so I could see why she would make some of the questionable decisions that she made. I found Ellie to be a bit naive at times – especially dealing with Andrew Thorpe – but again, I believed that to be genuine because of how young she was when Lila died, and how profoundly her sister’s death impacted the rest of her life.
The mystery of how exactly Lila died, who killed her, and for what reason, was the undercurrent running throughout the entire book. While the question of what happened to her was something I desperately wanted to find an answer to, I have to confess that I was more concerned with Ellie’s development and growth than the actual solving of the mystery. This most likely had to do with the fact that the reader never really gets to know Lila – only through Ellie’s memories – so it’s easy to care about Ellie much more than about solving Lila’s murder. But because Ellie is so invested in finding these answers, I did need to find out those answers along with her. It was easy to see from the beginning that if Ellie just understood why her sister died, she would finally be able to move on and create a future of her own. It was almost as if Ellie felt that since Lila never got a future, Ellie didn’t deserve happiness for her life either – even to the point of sabotaging the most serious and committed relationship she’d ever had over something silly. So because I cared for Ellie, I truly was concerned about her getting a resolution to the questions she’d carried around with her for twenty years.
One more thing about No One You Know – as in The Year of Fog, Michelle Richmond’s writing is excellent. This novel is also set in San Francisco, which is one of my favorite cities in the United States, and she truly brings the city to life through her writing. I could see and smell aspects of the city that I’ve experienced and loved when I’ve visited in the past. She also has quite a way with words when describing interactions between people – she can make the smallest conversation seem so important to the reader, which means that it’s nearly impossible to put the book down!
There were so many things to love about No One You Know. It is an exciting novel with excellent characters and beautiful writing. I am happy to say that Michelle Richmond is now two for two in my book. 🙂
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