We Came Here to Forget by Andrea Dunlop
Published by Atria Books
Publication date: July 2, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction
It seems to me that you lose yourself quickly, and that you lose others little by little.
Katie Cleary is on top of the world—almost literally. An alpine downhill racer she’s won an Olympic medal, her best friend is her boyfriend, Luke, who is also an Olympic ski medalist, and they’re set to dominate the Winter Olympics in Sochi. She has endorsements, sponsors and is peak physical condition. Until her family is marred by tragedy, not the kind that evokes worldwide sympathy. With everything around her in shambles, Katie decides to disappear and start a new life. We Came Here to Forget is Andrea Dunlop’s novel about running away to get back home.
Money isn’t a concern for Katie, but anonymity is so she chooses Buenos Aires. Once there she changes her name to Liz, finds an apartment, signs up for Spanish lessons, and gets a job as a guide to English-speaking tourists. She still has too much time on her mind and it always goes to negative places—her shattered family, the loss of Luke, and of the person she had been since childhood. Gone is the body that, while not fashionable in its size, was an efficient racing machine. Lost is the confidence, the adrenaline thrill she felt when tearing down the side of a mountain. She second guesses everything now, believing that she could have changed events if she’d only paid more attention. Finally, she decides to challenge her body in a completely new way by taking tango lessons. In this small, tightknit community, Katie comes to see she’s not alone in needing to escape.
It may seem as if this is the kind of plot overload that makes me nuts, but in We Came Here to Forget, Dunlop eases into things by focusing on Katie/Liz in the present or in the distant past of her childhood. She moves chapters between Katie and her sister, Penny, providing perspective on their unusual family dynamic as well as fascinating insight on what it takes to become a world-class athlete.
In the present, it’s the intricate world of tango and of acclimating to a new culture that gives We Came Her to Forget its allure. Liz meets people from all levels of society and numerous countries. Their stories, shared and discovered give the novel dimension.
The combination of ingredients plus Dunlop’s writing style and way with words means that when the supersized truth is unwrapped it doesn’t overwhelm the smaller moments in We Came Here to Forget. At a time when reality is providing too much of one and not enough of the other, I welcomed the novel’s drama and appreciated its tidy ending.
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