My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When I was younger, I took dance classes. I started ballet when I was three, adding tap and jazz along the way. I participated in recitals and private lessons and even competed. The world of competitive dance was too much for me, and while I did love dancing, I did not love everything that came with it.
As I read, You Will Know Me, I was reminded of that world all over again.
Of course, I was not as focused or determined as Devon was. Nor were my parents as single mindedly dedicated to dancing as hers were. But to say that this book is solely about competitive gymnastics is doing it a disservice.
Yes, the plot is centered around the Knox family. Specifically Devon and her pursuit of making the Olympic Gymnastic team. However, at the heart of this book is an examination of parenthood and marriage. So much so, that we really see this entire world through the eyes of the mother, Katie.
Both being a parent, and being married are complicated endeavors.
Katie and Eric seem to have a solid marriage. One built on compromise and partnership. One where they both juggle to make sure their children’s needs are met. After all, training to become an Olympic athlete takes dedication, hard work and single minded focus. From the entire family.
We see how this pursuit unites them against the world. And then we see how it also threatens to unravel them. “It doesn’t matter whose dream it is,” she said, “Just that it’s a dream.”
An accident brought gymnastics into their lives. One where maybe guilt and a feeling of responsibility hold the family hostage to the pursuit of this dream. Another accident threatens to unravel everything they’ve worked towards.
The use of accident in this book is very interesting to me. The accident that sparked gymnastics to be brought into their lives. The accident that shakes their gymnastic community are the most obvious. But while Katie struggles to keep her family together, the memory of the pregnancy and how that was an accident comes up more than once. That accident not only brought Devon into creation, but also cemented her bond to Eric. Moved him to propose and marry her.
Which I think is important to the character of Katie. She never had a dream. Never had goals. Her life sort of happened to her, was thrust upon her in a series of accidents. Things she didn’t necessarily choose, yet she now struggles to desperately hold on to.
“Remember that kind of wanting? That kind that’s just for yourself? And you don’t even have to feel guilty about it?” “Katie nodded and nodded and nodded, because it felt true even if she couldn’t name the thing she’d wanted.”
She latches onto the dream of marriage, and then the dream of parenthood, and then the dream of Olympic champion. She pursues them and drives towards them, without ever thinking if she really wanted them to begin with. Without understanding what that type of wanting felt like.
That is what threatens Katie at the core. When events begin to unravel the core of her marriage, and threaten to come between her relationship with her daughter, it is not understanding that level of drive and commitment that is hardest for Katie. She cannot understand it, so she cannot understand the decisions made in blind pursuit of it.
“This is what fearlessness looks like, Katie thought. What desire can do.”
We get glimpses of Eric and Devon, of what they see and what they feel and what they want. But only through Katie’s eyes. We see that she sees them as the same, multiple times, a team united, where she has to fight to be let in. The irony is she often excludes her own son, Drew, in her fight to be seen by Devon and Eric. She has to remind herself that the Knox family is made up of four members, not three. She is jealous of their closeness but it also scares her. Fear of being left out, of being left behind, or being not included.
This book is listed as a murder mystery, and at the heart, we do unravel a mystery. But it is also unraveling the mystery or life. They mystery of parenthood. The mystery of marriage.
“Married a long time, you think there will never be any surprises again, at least not those kinds. But you are wrong.”
Megan Abbott shows us that we can hide the truth about those we are closest with. We can be blind to everything but what we want to see. As Katie plunges deeper to solving the murder, the hard truths about her daughter and her husband become almost too much to bear.
But parenting is ferocious, the love you feel for your child primal and urgent. It becomes a matter of protecting them, even if you don’t understand them. “After all, who wouldn’t do anything for one’s child? Especially when that child worked harder and wanted something more than either of them ever had? Who wanted in ways they’d long forgotten how to want or had never known at all?”
The ending to this book felt anticlimactic. We solve the mystery or the murder, but the rest remains unsolved, open and unsatisfying. Maybe that’s because we can solve problems. We can figure out who did a crime. But how do we answer the bigger questions of life? What makes a good marriage? What makes a good parent? When is a dream enough?
“She hadn’t learned, no one had taught her – Katie and Eric hadn’t taught her – that the things you want, you never get them. And if you do, they’re not what you thought they’d be. But you’d still do anything to keep them. Because you’d wanted them for so long.”
This book won’t give you answers to those questions, but it will make you think about them. What lengths would you go for to protect your child? To help them achieve everything they dream of? What would you endure with your spouse? How far would you go for love? What would you forgive?
The answers may surprise you.
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.