The story takes place in modern day NYC (blocks from where I live) and the Washington DC / Virginia area. Allie, an editor at a big publishing company, can’t remember what happened one night at a party during her college years. She remembers being invited by a strange girl, showing up and seeing some peculiar behavior, but then all she knows is that her roommate saw a handsome guy drop her off the next morning. What happened overnight? Well… Allie’s been getting monthly text messages and emails asking her what happened at Kalorama Road that night. They scare her but also intrigue her. Is it someone else who doesn’t recall? Is it someone who wants her to remember? Is it the person who took her there who has since disappeared? It all begins coming back together when she’s let go from her publishing job and begins writing a blog. Someone submits a book for her review but it seems like a real life mystery, then it begins to resemble her own experience at Emsworth University. Allie never told anyone but she’s compelled to reveal all the details to her former colleague and the former roommate. At the same time, Allie’s sister has a secret she wants to keep hidden and a new man enters Allie’s life that seems very familiar. How does everything come together?
The book jumps back and forth between a few main characters, sharing their stories and actions over the course of a few weeks. We see a few memories from the past and learn who is really connected to who. As each chapter unfolds, a piece of the puzzle gets more clear but also opens up more confusion to leaf through. Throw in a powerful senator and his family, a suicide, a newspaper reporter trying to find out what happened in the past, a murder, and a family with a large endowment given to the university yet some secrets worth protecting, there’s bound to be a few explosive moments. What a wild ride, both in terms of how all the connections are revealed and in the build-up of tension between all the new people suddenly just appearing in Allie’s life as she’s trying to solve the puzzle of her missing memories.
Billups drew me in from the first few chapters. I’m a sucker for a lost memory story, but when it straddles that line of “oh, this seems obvious” but then throws you a curve where you’re like “wait, WHAT?” it’s even more appealing. It takes a lot to plan a story where you reveal things bit by bit. It’s also difficult to cover a story from multiple points of view without confusing readers. Billups handles both with great aplomb and talent, as it came together solidly without any concern.
Her character sketches of different women and men in their 20s, living in NY, were on point and realistic — there were moments were they annoyed me because of typical behavior, but that’s a good thing as it means Billups has evoked intense emotion and a strong connection to the story. I enjoyed the slow-build romance and potential eerie connections with her new friends, but I also could tell she had some blinders on when it came to all the ‘coincidences’ going on in her life. And there’s an explanation for it… as the tidbits of history we learn about Allie and her sister’s lives growing up clearly show why they act the way they do now. A great way to make things seem quite reasonable in a story that has you guessing who to trust.
I’m quite intrigued by what else might come from the author’s clever mind. I’ll be taking another look at her previous books and seeing if I can find out what’s coming up next… as I’ll definitely be reading another one this year. And I don’t want to wait a year for another book! 🙂