Title: BEFORE YOU KNEW MY NAME
Author: Jaqueline Bublitz
Publisher: Atria / Emily Bestler Books
Read: August 2022
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 all the stars!
This is not just another novel about
a dead girl.
When she arrived in New York on her 18th birthday carrying nothing but $600 cash and a stolen camera, Alice Lee was looking for a fresh start. Now, just one month later, she is the city's latest Jane Doe, an unidentified murder victim.
Ruby Jones is also trying to start over; she travelled halfway around the world only to find herself lonelier than ever. Until she finds Alice's body by the Hudson River.
From this first, devastating encounter, the two women form an unbreakable bond. Alice is sure that Ruby is the key to solving the mystery of her life - and death. And Ruby - struggling to forget what she saw that morning - finds herself unable to let Alice go. Not until she is given the ending she deserves.
Before You Knew My Name doesn't ask whodunnit. Instead, this powerful, hopeful novel asks: Who was she? And what did she leave behind? The answers might surprise you.
It’s wonderful how the books that will most affect you emotionally somehow find their way to you. When I was first invited to read BEFORE YOU KNEW MY NAME, the book hadn’t even been on my radar but its premise intrigued me. “this is not just another novel about a dead girl” is an apt description of Jacqueline Bublitz’s debut novel, because it is unlike any other story I have ever read.
We know from the beginning that Alice Lee, the narrator of the story, is dead, telling us about her fate from beyond the grave. The catch was that I hadn’t counted on how Alice would reel me in, show me the world through her eyes and utterly break my heart in the process! Then there is Ruby Jones, who arrives in New York City on the same day Alice does, with just as much baggage and just as many hopes and dreams for a better future. The one thing that will link the two women together is Alice’s death, because it is Ruby who will find her body, and who will not be able to put the unidentified dead girl out of her mind.
BEFORE YOU KNEW MY NAME captures the essence of being alive, trying to make a mark on the world. Alice Lee, the riverside Jane Doe, the unidentified victim of a brutal murder, is not ready to be forgotten, lost among all the other nameless girls out there who have never gotten justice. Her life has been cruelly robbed just as she was forging a new bright future for herself. But how do the dead get justice, how can they make themselves heard? Ruby, the jogger who finds Alice’s body, could have simply moved on with her life, filed the experience away, tried to forget all about it. Instead, she becomes obsessed with finding out more about the dead girl she found on the riverbank that horrible rainy day. A life has been taken, and Ruby cannot let it go. Just like that, a connection is formed between two strangers, one dead and one alive.
If I had any doubts about a narrator telling her story from beyond the grave being able to touch me emotionally, I was soon swept away by Bublitz’s beautiful prosaic writing and the emotional insights she offers on every page. Both Alice and Ruby are flawed in ways most readers will be able to relate, from a time they too tried to find their place in the world. Alice’s mix of street smarts and innocence immediately got under my skin and I found myself caring deeply for her, which opened doors to emotions deeply buried and not often explored. It’s always the sign of a great book if it has the power to make you cry, and this book certainly hit hard. My heart shattered into a million pieces the moment Alice’s life was stolen from her, and I couldn’t stop reading until the story reached its finale.
BEFORE YOU KNEW MY NAME is a poignant, beautifully written and emotionally charged book about connection, grief and new beginnings that shot an arrow deeply into my heart and lodged there. It is one of the best books I have read this year. Don’t miss it!
Thank you to Netgalley and Atria / Emily Bestler Books for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.