Review: Watching You Without Me

Watching You Without Me by Lynn Coady

Actual Rating: 3.5

Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for a free e-copy in exchange for an honest review.

Wow, this was a hard one to rate. It wasn’t a bad read and I actually was quite invested in the outcome, but it was not necessarily a captivating book.

This book follows Karen. When her mother suddenly dies, she’s forced to move back home to Nova Scotia and take care of her disabled sister Kelli. Even though she’s new to everything, at least Trevor, a hired caregiver — and close friend of her mother — is always there to help. Karen grows to depend more and more on him, while at the same time feeling uneasy with his presence; he’s pushy and bossy and seems to make himself a tad bit too comfortable in their home. But what right does she have to say anything when she was the absentee daughter who left to live her own life, the one who only called home once-a-month because it was what was expected?

The plot for this book definitely started out a little too slow for my liking, and it also wasn’t the type of story I was expecting. From the original blurb I thought it would be more thriller/mystery and to be honest I think it does the book a disservice to market it that way — it’s a lot more contemporary/family. I didn’t really get into it until about 40% in. After that, even though I was more invested in the developments between Trevor and Karen, it still very slow, as if we were trudging towards an end result that I already saw coming. Nevertheless, I really appreciate the realistic and subtle way in which emotionally and mentally abusive relationships and questionable power dynamics were portrayed.

At its core, Watching You Without Me was not very character-driven, and Karen was not very likeable because it felt like she kept making bad decisions. HOWEVER. And this is a huge however: I get it. I completely understand the difficulty of recognizing toxicity and bullying when it’s happening to you, and the difficulty in taking any action at all. It feels like Karen does well not as an individual, but in representing a concept, and I’m okay with that.

The writing style was overall pretty good. There were no lines that jumped out at me for their eloquence and it took me a while to get invested, but as a whole I felt like the book wrote a good story and made its reader think.

Overall, I think this would be good for a reader of contemporary fiction, especially one who reads about navigating dysfunctional family dynamics or taking care of a family member with disabilities.

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