After years of missed connections, Violet and Finn — the couple at the centre of Jessica Strawser's début novel, Almost Missed You — finally find themselves in the right place at the right time, and they soon marry and have a son together. Violet feels that she is truly happy at last and she loves to tell new acquaintances the 'unbelievable' story of how she and Finn met. But after deciding to spend a few extra minutes reading on the beach on a rare family holiday, Violet returns to her hotel room to find no sign of either Finn or their son — and, indeed, no sign that they were ever there at all.
As Violet's worst nightmare becomes an even worse reality, she turns to her best friend Caitlin for comfort, but Caitlin was Finn's best friend first and may know more than she is letting on — about both the disappearance of Finn and Bear and the terrible secrets that lie in Finn's past. With alternating chapters told from the perspective of Violet, Caitlin and Finn, Strawser skilfully guides the reader towards the novel's dramatic climax, asking the question of how well we can ever really know another person — even someone we love deeply.
Strawser's narrative is very gripping, with the back-story being fleshed out with flashbacks to Violet and Finn's first meeting — also on a beach, as a result of a big coincidence, before fate intervened, tearing them apart before they could exchange details — and their various encounters, near misses and attempts to find each other over the following years. I've always been a sucker for tales of missed connections and coincidences (see also Serendipity) and Strawser does a great job of making the reader root for past-tense Violet and Finn.
The characterisation was a little spottier — although we come to comprehend the pain and loneliness in their pasts as the story progresses, Violet often seems rather wet (if sympathetic), while Finn is incredibly unlikable for much of the novel, his actions hard to accept even when we begin to understand the motivation for his actions. Caitlin is, in many ways, a more interesting and complex character, whose friendship with both Violet and Finn puts her in an impossible position, particularly when her own past actions may come back to haunt not just her but her friends and family too.
The ending didn't fully satisfy me, but I enjoyed the journey and read the book in a single sitting. There are plenty of twists too — some of which I guessed, although others still surprised me — and I think Almost Missed You would make a great holiday read.
Disclaimer: Almost Missed You will be published by St Martin's Press on 28 March. I received a pre-release copy via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.