One act can change everything. When child services agent Heather is hospitalized after an attack in her home, the investigation that follows exposes family secrets, harsh betrayals, and long-buried resentments. As her mother, father, aunt, sister, and husband each share their stories, every new revelation points toward one inescapable truth: someone close to Heather is responsible for the attack. Who could have done this, and what drove them to attack Heather in the first place?
Behind You is not your garden-variety whodunit, ricocheting between six ongoing narratives to create one intriguing story that is as convoluted, emotional, and messy as life itself. As the family’s past and present emerges, the multiple threads offer twists and turns as well as intriguing family parallels and prime examples of conflicting sides to every story.
That slow, aggregate storytelling is one of the novel’s key strengths. Duncan seeds each chapter, each narrative shift, with brief tangents that all contribute to the whole in meaningful ways. She allows the reader to place each piece of the puzzle — the actual police investigation in the story is a minor plot point — putting us in the same position as the family: proactively attempting to assign blame and solve the crime.
But that’s not all that Behind You brings to the table. The novel also highlights the aftermath of tragedy, those moments where burdens can be swept aside, where dead wood is cleared to allow new growth, and where rebuilding what’s been lost can bring about new chances for the future.
That spirit of reconciliation, of resurgent optimism for what’s to come, infuses the final pages of the book, leaving the inevitable (and somewhat underwhelming) resolution of Heather’s attack as secondary to what’s become the far more interesting question: after you’ve put the past “Behind You,” what happens next?
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