Book Reviews

Book Review: Who She Is

Who She Is

By Diane Byington

Published in 2018

250 pages

In the autumn of 1967, 15-year-old Faye Smith is once again the newest student at her school.  She’s lived all over the country, usually only for a few months in one location, but her mother has promised they’ll stay in Valencia, Florida until Faye graduates from high school.  

She tries out for her high school track team and, despite being the only girl, wins third in her first competitive race.  Almost immediately, her parents and the school board decide she can’t compete, but she’s promised a scholarship to college if she can maintain her grades and keep up her running.  Seeing this as her means to escape a life she doesn’t want, she and her best friend Francie make plans to run in the Boston Marathon.

After a near-accident while training, memories begin to surface that don’t sync up with Faye’s childhood, her homes, or her parents.  As more odd memories bubble up, her parents give somewhat plausible reasons for them, but Faye thinks they’re lying to her.  When they move once again and Faye’s father threatens to pull her out of school to work on a tobacco farm, Faye must unravel the mysterious memories and find a way to fight for her future.

Despite being published three years ago, this was an ARC copy I requested.  Based on the blurb, I thought this was a reincarnation story.  And I love a good reincarnation story.  Plus it won several historical fiction awards, so I dove in.  About 40% of the way through the book, I was confused.  I figured either A) the story started in the wrong place, B) the blurb was incorrect, or C), this was not a reincarnation story.  If you guessed C, you’d be correct.  Once I realigned my expectations, the story began to flow better. Or possibly it was just the pacing picking up at that point because there seemed to be a lot of build up and obstacles before Faye started acting instead of reacting. Pacing aside, it was a good story, dealing with women’s rights in sports, racial segregation and tension, and Vietnam.  The historic details didn’t feel forced and the sports aspect was interesting.  I had no idea women weren’t allowed to run in the Boston Marathon until 1972.  

The main issue I had was with the execution and at the risk of parroting my last review, filters need to be stripped out when writing in first person point of view.  The novel was so heavily filtered that I felt like someone was telling me the story about Faye, not that I was getting it from Faye herself.  Distant first person just doesn’t work well for me.  So while I liked the book, I could have loved it if I’d been more immersed in Faye’s head.  As it was, she kept me at arm’s length so I was never able to connect well with her.

I gave this book 2.5 stars.  I nearly gave it three but when comparing it to other three star novels, it just didn’t stack up.

Until next time, thank you for visiting

My rating system:

5 stars – Wow, I could not stop thinking about this book and/or I wish I’d writtn it.

4 stars – This was an awesome novel, I’d recommend it to friends.

3 stars – This was a good novel, I will look for more by this author.

2 stars – An okay novel, but I probably won’t look for anything else by the author.

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