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To Be Known

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Not for me 😔

To Be Known had a great premise, but ultimately fell short. Wordiness confuses the plot and takes the reader out of the story.

To Be Known takes readers through a couple different plots and a few different time periods, but primarily follows Edward Doyle – a thirtysomething who has recently been laid off from his New York tech job. Seeking a fresh start on familiar turf, he returns to his English hometown where he joyously reconnects with his childhood crush, Emily Sutton, now a married woman with a three-year-old girl named Lizbeth.


After Edward is invited to stay with the Suttons, he saves their daughter from what would have been a tragic accident. Emotional complications arise that disrupt the dynamics of the Sutton household. But that’s not all. There’s something unsettling about Lizbeth’s imaginary friend, Walter. And someone – or something – with malicious intent is watching all of them…


My take: Holy nostalgia, Batman! I’m all for cozy descriptions and reminiscences of idyllic times, but Field’s story takes these things to another level. It seems as though the first half of the book is just the characters pining for simpler times. I suppose that’s intentional as it reflects their dissatisfaction with adulthood, but it seems excessive.


There are also several instances of lengthy, convoluted sentences that I found myself rereading several times only to determine that they either did not make much sense or they were entirely superfluous. About two-thirds of the way through the novel, Field bizarrely rehashes events that have already occurred – verbatim in large chunks. A few new details are thrown in amongst this self-plagiarism, so really the purpose behind this section of the book is to show how the story arc is being tied together. However, it just struck me as tedious.


The characters are average. With all the aforementioned reminiscing they frequently come across as whiny or self-pitying (even though it’s supposed to be the opposite). Emily Sutton is a good mother and a kind woman, but at the end of the day she’s really just in need of rescuing. As the story goes on, she ends up making dubious life choices which gives her even less appeal. Edward is wishy washy and constantly critical of himself. A little humility is charming, but this guy is perpetually down on himself to the point of annoyance. He is also somehow the remedy to Emily’s unfulfilling life, until he suddenly isn’t.


There were some redeeming aspects, though. It’s always appreciated when writers, especially in thriller/horror genres, are able to effectively foreshadow events early in the story that end up coming full circle in the end. Field does this with relative success, making the plot progression feel decently crafted. On the other hand, the climax and conclusion could have been greatly pared down; it was all I could do to not breeze through to the very end.


This book held a lot of promise. The twist was not as “twisty” as I’d hoped, but I didn’t entirely guess it, either. As a work, To Be Known is like a piece of raw ore: lots of unnecessary and detracting surrounding material with glimmers of precious content throughout. Unfortunately the precious glimmers were not enough to save the story for me.


Reviewed by

Horror, thriller/suspense, and mystery are my areas of reviewing expertise, although like most dedicated readers I'll delve into (nearly) anything with a great plot. I love being a reviewer and having the chance to interact with talented writers as well as help their stories gain exposure.

Prologue

About the author

Hello! My name is Justin Field. Ever since I was a child, I've loved writing. I'm happy to share with you my debut novel, "To Be Known." I especially love suspense and thrillers, anything that keeps me on the edge of my seat and thinking. I live in Washington with my wife and two children. view profile

Published on November 13, 2020

100000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Reviewed by