This novel really resonated with me. Perhaps because I am just a scant five years younger than the protagonist who finds herself living in a senior’s care home after suffering falls. Now she uses a walker to get around and she laments her lack of independence. She worked for many years as a surgical nurse and has a fine intellect, yet her body has let her down. Frannie has suffered a lot of losses in her seventy-two years. First she lost her husband of over five decades to cancer, then she lost her beloved granddaughter to a drunk driver. Her daughter Iris has been struggling with debilitating grief, and Frannie worries about her.
Just a few days in her new residence, Frannie makes a friend in Katherine. A lovely woman who she can share stories with, who has many similar interests. Then, to her dismay, she learns that Katherine lives here with her husband, the judge that proceeded over the drunk-driving case which let her granddaughter’s killer go free…
Though Frannie is without question a ‘good person’, she makes a disastrously bad decision ruled by her own grief and her penchant for justice. The consequences of her actions spiral to encompass other people, and Frannie is overcome with remorse, stress, and guilt.
This novel covers many serious themes. It examines how the elderly are perceived by society as a whole, often unjustly relegating them to invisibility – as burdens, as people ‘lesser than’. It also examines how people in power can run roughshod over the rules that govern everyone else. It looks at how people manage to cope with profound loss, as well as the soul crushing indignities of aging.
I loved the in depth characterization of the protagonist in this novel. With themes of remorse, loss, guilt, corruption and culpability, this debut also had more than a little element of mystery to its plot. This is a morally complicated story which could provoke some lively discussion in a book club. Highly recommended. I’m eager to read what this author writes next.
This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Crooked Lane Books/Penguin Random House via NetGalley.
Publication date: April 4, 2023
ISBN: 9781639102600 – ASIN: B0B5Z1R68X – 320 pages
Here are a few of my favourite quotes from “You Should Have Known”:
“Perhaps the only way we can survive is to be willing to believe the best and overlook the worst.”
“And when it comes to family, I wonder how many of us really feel like we have any choice which side we are on.”
“I simply let their conversation wash over me and savored memories of when I belonged somewhere and contributed to something.”
Rebecca Keller is a writer, an internationally exhibited artist, a college professor, a Fulbright Scholar, and recipient of awards from the National Endowment for the Arts.
But once upon a time she was a house-cleaner, shuttle driver, waitress, and nursing home cook. She got a graduate degree to improve her lot, and ended up working in museums, where she wrote about art and gave tours, making her own work at night. She had children. She began teaching at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She was awarded a Fulbright. She did a TEDx talk.
And she began writing fiction. Her stories have been nominated for a Pushcart prize, and her debut novel “You Should Have Known” will be released from Crooked Lane Books in 2023. She is now working on stories about art and another novel.
Learn more about her artworks here: https://rebeccakeller.net/home.html
Excellent review, Lynne. I am also just five years younger than this protagonist and very interested in this story. The theme of aging is a good one and one to be looked at in life for sure.
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