by Roxanne Remy
Following a family tragedy, nineteen-year-old Lennon Camek retreats to college in Boston. But the guilt of leaving her younger sister, Olivia, behind with their mother is ever-present, and when Olivia is admitted to the hospital, Lennon suspects she knows why. However, once back in South Alabama, things become a little more complicated…
I read Remy’s first novel, They Can’t Eat You For Supper in 2021* and was supremely interested given the huge twist at the end to see where she took Kristin and her daughters next.
They Didn’t Eat Me For Supper does not disappoint and, could, be read as a standalone novel. It grips and twists from the beginning with a strong, driving narrative that is confident in its direction and tightly wound in its plotting.
Chapters flick fairly rapidly between Lennon and Olivia’s perspectives, maintaining momentum and allowing the reader to see both points of view. Remy does a really convincing job presenting their individual voices, issues, and personalities both in terms of this novel and also continuing their characters’ arcs from They Can’t Eat You For Supper which is no mean feat as the sisters have come of age and matured in different directions.
Lennon is a complex, sometimes frustrating character who is fully aware of her shortcomings but blunders on regardless. Nonetheless, her heart and intentions are always heading toward the right place. There is an open intensity to her personality and raw, unfiltered honesty.
Olivia, by contrast, appears softer, more considered, and presents as the more mature sister for large parts of the book. Her internal monologues provide an intriguing contrast and occasional divergence from Lennon’s embittered reminiscences.
Indeed, the majority of They Didn’t Eat Me For Supper serves as a retrospective for the sisters. This allows events and backstories to be revisited both through dialogue and flashbacks. Their shared and separate memories give a much more rounded, objective view of their parents than before, especially Hutch.
Remy also focuses on the heavy emotional price both girls have paid and continue to pay for their parents’ decisions. It’s heavy, tangled stuff but reads compellingly and credibly.
All the core characters have elements of villain and hero in them and that lends the story unpredictability as the reader is never sure quite whom to trust and whose version of events is correct.
This is especially valid with Kristin’s mother, Rosalyn (“RaRa”). I found the sub-plot and revelation with her fascinating but wanted more, or possibly less. There was something a touch unsatisfactory about RaRa’s behavior although it does provide a decent answer to several questions.
Nonetheless, Remy skillfully builds the suspense with Kristin and Lennon’s meeting at the hospital. It’s nearly three-quarters through the plot and the reader is hovering between dread and welcome at the two coming face to face.
Indeed, this book slightly swings between genres to provide a stronger element of straightforward mystery amongst the family drama. The reader is given some curiously ambiguous hints that are in direct conflict with Lennon’s unshakeable belief that Olivia is being directly harmed which keeps the pages turning.
Olivia’s diabetes and the effect it has on her life and those around her is ever-present throughout the story but never overly detracts from it, although it is quite central.
Remy’s handling of the condition from a writerly aspect is excellent, the medical terminology and processes are effortlessly part of the narrative without becoming unrelatable or dense. When the real reason for her hospital stay is revealed it’s thoroughly believable, thought-provoking, and well-handled.
They Didn’t Eat Me For Supper is a smart, contemporary, and cleverly crafted novel written with passion and honesty that is extremely readable. Highly recommended.
*Click here for my review of They Can’t Eat You For Supper.