Those Who Knew Review

From the award-winning author of Ways to Disappear, a taut, timely novel about what a powerful politician thinks he can get away with and the group of misfits who finally bring him down.

On an unnamed island country ten years after the collapse of a U.S.-supported regime, Lena suspects the powerful senator she was involved with back in her student activist days is taking advantage of a young woman who’s been introducing him at rallies. When the young woman ends up dead, Lena revisits her own fraught history with the senator and the violent incident that ended their relationship.

Why didn’t Lena speak up then, and will her family’s support of the former regime still impact her credibility? What if her hunch about this young woman’s death is wrong?

What follows is a riveting exploration of the cost of staying silent and the mixed rewards of speaking up in a profoundly divided country. Those Who Knew confirms Novey’s place as an essential new voice in American fiction.

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I had such high hopes for this book. A political thriller that seemed to mirror some parts of the world around us? Sign me up! I was gifted this ARC, so I was so excited to even get the chance to read it before it came out. But unfortunately, sometimes things aren’t as great as they might seem.

This book is told in an extremely strange fashion. There are a bunch of different characters whose stories are all happening simultaneously, and each chapter focuses on a different one. It wasn’t even until I reached the end of the book that I realized that Freddy was Victor’s younger brother, and I am only half sure about that! Then, the book also included a few TV-show or play script chapters where the author would jump back into the past and talk about things that were happening. These were the most confusing, as they would often end on a really strange note and just “fade to black.” There were also chapters told in a chronological order, with timestamps by the hour. But without knowing which characters were which, these chapters also made no sense. Characters in the play and time-stamp chapters were just referred to as “Future Senator” or “Future Senator’s Brother” and so forth, to make the story more “cryptic.”

The main plot of the book was supposed to be about Maria P’s death and Lena trying to figure out who killed her. Then it turned into a story about Lena and her former boyfriend the politician Victor, who she thought could have killed Maria. Then it was about Olga and her dead boyfriend/true love S and her marijuana business. Then, it was about Victor and his wife. Then it was about Victor and his brother. Then it was about Lena and her new boyfriend. Then it was about Lena and Olga. I literally could not keep up with everything that was going on, and it got to the point where I just stopped trying.

The ending of the book felt like some sort of fever dream. Dead bodies, but were they dead bodies? A lot of sexual scenes, for what reason, I don’t know. And then the end of the book didn’t seem to tie anything up. I was more confused than I was when I started reading.

This book started off as some sort of political thriller, but it ended as a sort of abstract novel about humanity, love, and politics. Definitely not my kind of read, and I probably wouldn’t have picked it up if I had known that it was going to be written in this fashion. At the beginning I wanted to learn about what happened to Maria P. I never figured out what happened to her, and I didn’t find out what happened to the other characters either.

I received a copy of this book and this my voluntary review.

Overall Rating: 1 out of 5 books

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