Four years have passed since Justin Campbell’s disappearance, a tragedy that rocked the small town of Southport, Texas. Then, one afternoon, the impossible happens. The police call to report that Justin has been found only miles away, in the neighboring town. Though the reunion is a miracle, Justin’s homecoming exposes the deep rifts that have diminished his family, the wounds they all carry that may never fully heal. When a reversal of fortune lays bare the family’s greatest fears—and offers perhaps the only hope for recovery—each of them must fight to keep the ties that bind them from permanently tearing apart. Named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review, Esquire and BookPage.
...[an] enthralling and skillful debut novel ... the book’s beauty is in its complexity, in its characters’ endless search for the truth, even once their prayers are answered ... The lost child’s return to his family, Johnston illustrates with devastating clarity, is a parent’s brightest fantasy, but it may also be a parent’s worst nightmare ... That we aren’t presented with a full picture of the crime may be frustrating, but it’s also eminently admirable — and uncomfortably revealing. It’s here that Johnston’s management of narrative distance — his choice to keep Justin safe from all interior access, giving us his family’s points of view instead — is intimately coupled with a powerful moral standard, a standard that suggests not just how readers ought to behave, but how authors ought to. In a sea of novelists praised as 'unflinching,' Johnston chooses to flinch ... What Johnston captures and examines so expertly isn’t the kind of sadistic cruelty familiar to anyone with a television, but a subtler, more quietly menacing variety, the eggshell tiptoeing, the killing kindness we unknowingly inflict when acting out of love and fear ... If there’s any crime worth a novel’s time, it’s this one ... Remember Me Like This isn’t a novel about a kidnapping. It’s not a psychological study of Stockholm syndrome or a victimology. It’s not a thriller, and it’s not even really a mystery, unless it’s an unsolved one, the exquisitely moral mystery of how we struggle to accept and love the people we call family, even when we can’t fully know them.
In his debut [Johnston] offers an achingly beautiful and psychologically insightful portrait of a family rebuilding after a traumatic event ... Johnston reveals the ways in which trauma affects individuals as well as all those around them in profound and unpredictable ways ... When Justin returns, it is a scene so devastating yet utterly surprising that only a novelist of tremendous skill could manage it without tipping into melodrama ... A lesser novelist might have treated such charged material with prurient interest and ripped-from-the-headlines drama instead of as a tender and compelling portrait of recovery ... The book is alive with the fully imagined inner lives of each of its characters. Johnston’s scenes are exquisite, the internal and external worlds kept in taut balance. That Johnston is a terrific stylist who wields lyrical language in a way that makes it seem natural and unforced makes the single false note — the clichéd metaphor of phantom-limb pain to describe Eric’s feelings when Justin is gone — that much more glaring in this fully immersive novel in which the language is luminous and the delivery almost flawless.
This beautiful and engrossing book looks at the return of a boy who was missing for four years, and the consequences for him and his family, as they try to find their way to being a family again. It is a most moving novel and the least sensational take on a socially incendiary issue ... Often in novels, a favourite character emerges where the story is truly alive when he or she is on the page. It might be that this is the reader’s favourite character but in all likelihood is the writer’s favourite and most has been invested in this characterisation. What is so thrilling and moving about this novel is that the detail is so meticulous, the emotional lives are so brilliantly captured that every character stands out; there is heart and depth on every page. Johnston’s gift is in how he makes details tell ... Johnston interweaves the community desire to celebrate with the family’s deep need to cut off the shackles of their own particular guilt. The emotional intelligence of the novel cuts deep, and reading it is a moving and ultimately uplifting experience.