Author Gian Sardar’s newest novel, You Were Here, traverses seven decades to tell a story about love, passion, and crime as it jumps from the past (identified by the chapter heading Then) to the present (identified as Now).
In 1940s Minnesota, Claire and William Ballantine have wealth and a beautiful estate, but little else. Their relationship has shrunk to politeness after only two years of marriage. Everything shifts, however, when a 24-year-old seamstress named Eva literally stumbles into their lives after tripping and falling on the sidewalk. William helps her to her feet and their casual meeting leads to a passionate love affair. William finds himself gripped by an obsession with the lovely young girl, leaving his wife increasingly alone. Claire, whose hobby is pottery, becomes agitated and lonely, her only company her fiercely dedicated Danish housekeeper Ketty.
Jumping to the present, readers are introduced to Abby Walters, a 33-year-old, would-be screenwriter who returns to Minnesota for her 15-year high school reunion. She has been visited by recurring nightmares of being buried alive. Is something from the past intruding on her present life? While she explores the clues from her dreams, she begins to uncover the tragic story of Eva and the Ballantines’ love triangle. But how and why is she dreaming about them? At the reunion, Abby rekindles a relationship with Aiden Mackenzie, her high school crush, now a detective involved in a gruesome local murder spree. (This story line, which is truly terrifying, seems unnecessary, simply used as a device to bring the two together.) Eventually Eva and Abby’s stories intersect.
Author Sardar is capable of some truly lovely prose. However, her characterization of women made it difficult to relate or sympathize with her main characters. Claire, and other well-off women in her circle, float around all day, passive and complaining. Even Abby, a modern woman, has only a vague job selling vintage jewelry. My favorite character is Eva, who works for a living, counts her pennies, and dreams of a better life with the man she loves. Unfortunately, poor Eva ends up being the catalyst for the violence to come.