What is this about?: In the aftermath of an explosion at Penn Station Julia races to find her husband in its aftermath.
What else is this about?: The Real Michael Swann is a love story, and it’s all about Julia and Michael Swann.
In a new novel from New York Times bestselling author Bryan Reardon, a suburban family is rocked in the wake of a terrorist attack on American soil.
On a typical late summer day, Julia Swann is on the phone with her husband, Michael, when the call abruptly goes dead. Then the news rolls in: A bomb has gone off at Penn Station, where Michael was waiting for a train home. New York City is in a state of chaos.
A frantic Julia races to the city to look for Michael, her panic interwoven with memories of meeting and falling in love with the husband she’s now desperate to find. When someone finds a flier she’s posted and tells her they may have seen her husband, her dreams seem to be answered. Yet as she tries to find him, her calls go unanswered.
Weaving between the aftermath of the explosion and Julia’s memories of her life with Michael, new developments raise troubling questions. Did Michael survive the explosion? Why hasn’t he contacted her? What was he doing when their last call was cut off? Was he—or is he still—the man she fell in love with?
Part family drama, part tragic love story, and part disaster narrative that hits terrifyingly close to home, The Real Michael Swann is a deftly plotted suspense novel with an unflinching portrait of a marriage at its heart, challenging us to confront the unthinkable–both in our country and in our own homes.
I am torn about this one.
I think it’s one of those books with two excellent halves, that I’m not entirely sure meld well enough together – but having said that, I will also say I had my heart in my mouth and I teared up on the bus no less as I was reading.
As the blurb says, this book begins with an explosion, and Julia is left wondering and hoping her husband is alive. From there, the book becomes their love story, an examination of how they came together and built a family in the past, while in the present Julia is searching through crowds of confused people, cops anyone and anything to track her husband down.
Reardon examines the good of people when a tragedy like this happens, and the bad when others see it as an excuse to give vent to their hatred.
This is where frustration settled in – I went into this thinking it would be faster paced, not expecting the depths and intricacies Reardon would be examining in their relationship in the past.
As Julia searches ever frantically for him, there is nothing happening in the present, the story is in the past – the events that lead up to us finding out who the real Michael Sawnn is.
I will say that I wished for further examination of the relationships closest to her at such a time, because that’s when your true friends emerge – while there was a tantalising hint of trust being broken, that I would like to have seen explored but the book focuses on the emotional – on Julia’s search, on trying to explain what happened to her two boys who more than anything want their father home.
It’s the last third, perhaps, of the book that the pace picks up, as if the story in the present was waiting for the past to catch up — and for Julia to catch up to Michael, and the truth of the man she’s been searching for. Michael himself is an enigma in the present, and it’s the past that shapes him for us, as Reardon has made very specific choices in this book when it comes to the real Michael Swann. You’ll understand what drove him, his every action before the book lets you in on the truth.
While I was – and am still — torn about this book, I will say there’s one more way of looking at this: this is one of those reads where things will only make sense if you persevere to the end — and it’s worth the journey I think.
Pacing is a big bugaboo of mine, but storywise, this is one of those reads that will make you go: Oh at the end, as if the whole world makes sense and doesn’t at the same time because Reardon excels at playing with your expectations.
The real Michael Swann, the one Julia believed in, was always a hero.