The Bookworm Sez: ‘Before I Let Go’ one to let go

Home is where your heart is.


You’ve probably heard that before but is it true? Home is where you put your stuff. It’s where you sleep most often, chill sometimes, and eat now and then. But is it where your heart is – or, as in the new book “Before I Let Go” by Marieke Nijkamp (c.2018, Sourcebooks, $17.99, 368 pages), is it a place you can never go again?

Corey barely knew how to breathe anymore.

How could she, when she’d just learned that her best friend, Kyra, had frozen to death in a gruesome suicide? How could she, when nothing would ever be the same?

Had it been just seven months since she’d last seen Kyra? Yes, and Corey carried a lot of guilt for that: though Kyra had faithfully written letters each week, Corey was away at school and rarely wrote back. Really, how do you tell your best friend that you’re happier elsewhere than you were with her?

Heading home, the airplane touched down in Lost, Alaska , and Corey wanted answers. Kyra never felt accepted in Lost, even though her family had lived in the tiny town since forever. The townspeople avoided her, were even cruel to her, partly because Kyra suffered from depression and mania.

Lost was not good for Kyra, but it wasn’t worth killing herself.

So how had things had changed? In the seven months since Corey’d last been home, the people of Lost had suddenly decided that Kyra was “magic.” Her artwork and paintings were everywhere, and townsfolk said that she had some sort of gift, an ability to see into the future. They said that Corey didn’t belong in Lost anymore, and they’d embraced Kyra as one of them. Did that scare Kyra to death?

No, something wasn’t quite right. Throughout their entire friendship, Kyra shared her hopes and dreams with Corey and those dreams didn’t include Lost. The girls grew up together, learned about themselves together, Kyra was Corey’s soul, and the townspeople didn’t understand. They didn’t know Kyra’s heart.

And they didn’t know about the secret place where Corey found diaries, and the truth…

You know the story about the race between the tortoise and the hare? Well, there is no “hare” in “Before I Let Go.”

No doubt, this is one of the slowest novels I’ve had in my hands in awhile. A hundred pages in, and I still didn’t care about any of the characters because too much time is spent on inconsequentials: repetition, go-nowhere conversations, musings, and memories that are longer than the points gained from reading them. Except for Kyra’s mother — who’s not in the story much — the adults in this book are laughably zombie-like, and fierce about something that doesn’t seem one bit well-founded or reality-based. Even the ghost-story aspect of this book feels half-hearted. Heavy sigh.

Author Marieke Nijkamp leapt out of the chute with last years’ stellar “This is Where It Ends,” and if you haven’t read it, get it now. As for “Before I Let Go,” it’s barely worth taking home.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Email her at


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