The Plot Thickens: Now That I’ve Found You
In her sophomore novel, Kristina Forest crafts a timeless romance that keeps the reader feeling the rush of enjoying early adulthood in New York City while also loathing the growing pains of gaining full autonomy of a life without clear cut instructions for how to live it.
Now That I’ve Found You is a story ostensibly about the main character, Evie Marie, tracking down her grandmother Gigi after a major argument between the two. This argument takes place after the long-abandoned Evie Marie loses a major opportunity to star in a blockbuster movie due to betrayal. She’s left L.A. to stay out of the public eye by hunkering down at Gigi’s Upper West Side townhouse, but before Evie Marie can even get there she’s surprised to learn that Gigi has become involved with people that she’s never actually met before. Reeling from these abrupt changes, including 19-year-old Milo Williams occasionally taking residence in her grandma’s home, Evie Marie says some things to Gigi that leaves the latter demanding some space. Little does Evie Marie know that when Gigi needs space, she really means it. Leaving a note for Evie Marie the next morning and some departing instructions for Milo, Gigi goes missing for days – in a week that she’s supposed to be honored at a major ceremony that would aid Evie Marie’s public perception. Gigi’s disappearance leads Evie Marie and Milo on a chase throughout NYC following clues and leading Evie Marie to learn more about just how lonely her reclusive grandmother has become in the years since she’s stopped visiting so frequently.
I enjoyed that the book showed the parallels of Gigi and Evie Marie’s lives. Evie Marie has spent her entire life feeling lonely and without close personal relationships except for two people in the past eight years. In those years, one person left to move to the other side of the country and the other person caused her deepest betrayal. On the other hand, Gigi has had a handful of great relationships in her life, but it is in her later years that people leave her in order to live their own lives without being of service to her. Evie Marie spends much of the book wanting to be like her esteemed grandmother, lauding her ability to not care about what others think about her, and it is in her journey to find her grandmother that she finds out much more about herself. The relationships in this novel remind me so much of the awakening of my peers and I when we were in college and given the space and time to pursue who we really are and how to get what we want – or if we truly wanted those things. Milo’s inclusion of Evie Marie in his band’s struggle to get signed opens her eyes to what it looks like to share successes with people that you’re close to and what friendship can be. While this often smarts her pent up feelings about a recent betrayal, you can see that joining Milo and his bandmates on their adventures around NYC provides her with perspective about the city itself and the value of chosen family.
I recommend this book not only for the romance, which is a pretty sweet and realistic portrayal of early and off and on again romances, but also for the character journeys of Evie Marie and her Gigi. Each character, from Gigi’s former beau James Jenkins, to Adrien, the bouncer for Milo’s band, feels well-realized and alive in the story. I could see this book being invaluable to people who want to feel less alone in finding their place in life or those who’d like to reflect for a bit on their own growth. Life comes without a guidebook, and while you could model yours after someone you admire, you’ll be more fulfilled letting your heart and mind take the lead.
*Special thanks to Hear Our Voices Book Tours and Macmilan’s Roaring Brook Press for giving us access to the advance review copy of this book.*
Now That I’ve Found You #OwnVoices Reflection
Having read Isabel Wilkerson’s Warmth of Other Suns and Mildred D. Taylor’s All the Days Past, All the Days to Come, Now That I’ve Found You feels like the young adult romance destined to come from the legacy of Black folks’ Great Migration. This book sets the main character, Evie Marie, in Los Angeles — a city of dreams that her grandparents built lives in after leaving New York City — another major destination for Black people fleeing the South in the Jim Crow era. Evie Marie’s grandmother, the indomitable Evelyn Conaway, had her breakout role starring in a movie as a New Yorker who falls in love with a Southern Black man, a man that ends up being a crucial love throughout her real life. These characters’ relationships with each other and the communities they surround themselves with are deep while mirroring Black history – achieving greatness in cities their ancestors claimed while also having long-lasting affinity for a region they may no longer have personal ties with.
As Evie Marie tries to escape the ire and pressure of her collapsed career, she finds herself journeying through some of the most beloved and historically Black parts of New York City, a place she’s never explored. Because her parents have always traveled, most recently throughout Botswana, exploration itself is not an issue for her. However, the fact that her parents have never really settled, despite owning a large home in L.A., means that she’s never built strong relationships with many people or places at all. The lasting legacy for many Black Americans is never truly feeling in your place, nor having assurance that your place will be secure once found. In Now That I’ve Found You, Evie Marie’s primary focus is securing her space within her family’s showbiz legacy and as she is diverted from the path she believes she must follow, she must reckon with the idea of what places and pathways mean for her. In many ways her journey to self discovery matches that of the real people we follow in Warmth of Other Suns and the Logan children in All the Days Past, All the Days to Come. We are not our ancestors, yet they are not very far away.