Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start…until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.
That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.
This book was very hard for me to rate. I initially rated it 4 stars, but upon reflection, it’s really more of a 3.5… or even a 3. Overall, if I had to sum up my experience of this book with one word, it would be “confused”. I was confused when I started the book, confused during the middle section of the book, and even more confused by the time I had finished the book. I’ve come to terms with the fact that this book is confusing and no matter how many times I read it, I will still be confused. And I think this might be the case for a lot of readers, so that’s something to keep in mind before picking up the book.
Disclaimer: This review probably makes zero sense because I was so confused but I wanted to get my thoughts out into the world. And maybe, if you’ve read the book, you can help me out?
So… why am I so confused? First of all, I have no idea how to categorise this book. Initially I thought it was contemporary with a bit of magical realism. Then it started feeling very paranormal. And finally, we learn that there is time-travel. So, I’ve basically just categorised it as contemporary, fantasy, magical realism and sci-fi. Of course, this is a super minor point… so let’s move on to what the book is actually about.
Natalie lives in a small town in Kentucky and ever since she was a child, she has been visited during the night by somebody called ‘Grandmother’ who tells her stories about creation and how the world began. However, nobody else can see Grandmother and everybody dismisses these visitations as hallucinations. One night, Natalie receives one final visit from Grandmother who tells her that she only has 3 months to save “him” and that she needs to find “Alice Chan” in order to do so. Natalie has no idea who she’s meant to be saving or who Alice Chan is but the next day, she meets Beau, a boy she has never met before even though they live in the same town.
Probably one of the main reasons why I felt so confused about the time travel elements of this book was because they were linked to psychology. At the beginning of the book, we find out that Natalie has gone through some trauma and has been seeing a therapist and trying a variety of different therapies in order to overcome her hallucinations. There’s a lot of information given about different kinds of hallucinations and there are even consultations with a professor of psychology who specialises in ‘visitations’ and psychic phenomena.
Because of my background in psychology, I could feel myself rejecting most of what was written, and I wasn’t able to suspend my disbelief and just be taken into the story and the world. First of all, there were these huge info-dumps on hallucinations and the Myer-Briggs personality types that, while well-researched and accurate, was honestly kind of overwhelming for me even though I have pretty sound knowledge on these topics. But the main reason why my brain rejected these concepts was because everything was based not on psychology but pseudo-psychology. While we all like to have our fun with the Myer-Briggs Test and call ourselves INFJs or INTPs, this is pseudo-psychology. The test has poor validity and reliability, and there is just no way that any research or theory could be or should be based upon these personality types. I found the professor of psychology that Natalie was consulting to be absolutely unprofessional in her approach and her area of study. There is no way, NO WAY, that somebody who specialises in psychic phenomena could be the head of the psychology department at a university. Because, in case this wasn’t clear, the study of visitations and premonitions is not an area of psychology. Sure, there are plenty of researchers who study consciousness and hallucinations, but none that are linked to psychic phenomena.
Because I resisted all these concepts, I had a hard time accepting what was happening. But none of this mattered because soon after, the concept of time-travel and multiple dimensions was introduced. Which left me feeling even more confused because I had no idea what I was supposed to think or believe. Is this all happening because she has a personality type that makes her prone to having hallucinations of people and things she shouldn’t be seeing? Or does she just have the ability to move through time and space? Or is it a combination of the two? Some of these questions were answered at the end, but I had a hard time fully understanding the explanation. Everything is explained to us at the end of the book, without us or Natalie truly having to figure it all out. I wasn’t a fan of this approach because I feel like I could have understood what was happening a little bit more if we had followed Natalie on her journey to unravelling the mystery. Instead, we were just told what happened and if you don’t understand the explanation… you’re never going to because the way that it was explained is never going to change.
Because I couldn’t completely latch on to the world and everything that was happening, I had to rely on the romance to keep me invested in the story. Thankfully, this book is first and foremost a romance story. The novel is filled with scenes of Beau and Natalie, and if you enjoy the two of them together, you’ll have no problems getting through this book. Sadly, I didn’t really fall into this camp. I enjoyed both of their characters and I didn’t mind their love story, but overall it felt a little bit unoriginal and lacklustre. There is a severe case of insta-love and the romance progresses rather quickly. It’s definitely a love at first sight kind of story about two people who are soul mates. It has little development because they pretty much go from being strangers to being in love within a few days.
What redeemed the book for me was the writing. The way Emily Henry writes is magical. Her words are lyrical and beautiful, and they kept me reading the book even when I was confused and wanted to quit. I also enjoyed the stories that Grandmother told Natalie. They were intriguing and the way they were told was just so captivating. They were, by far, my favourite aspect of the book.
Even though the book was confusing to me and I had no idea what happened at the end of the book, this wasn’t a bad reading experience. I loved the writing and it took me on a journey. I also liked the characters and the diversity that was in the book. But I was just left a bit unsatisfied… and confused.