All That Is Mine I Carry with Me by William Landay
Published by Bantam
Publication date: March 7, 2023
Genres: Book Clubs, Fiction, Childhood, Literary, Mystery
The scene is cleanly set when in the simpler times of 1975 10-year-old Miranda arrives home from school to find the house locked and, after she uses the hidden key to get in, empty. Her mother should be there. Her mother is always there to greet her after school. Her car, keys, handbag all in their proper place, but Jane Larkin is gone. And that’s the last of clean, simple scenes in William Landay’s All That is Mine I Carry With Me.
This genre smashing novel is split into four parts. In the first, the events around June’s disappearance and the aftermath are relayed in the present day from the perspective of Phil Solomon, a childhood friend and now an author, who’s reconnected with Jeff, Miranda’s older brother. As he spends time with both Miranda and Jeff they unspool the past for him, leading Phil to want to use it as the subject for his next novel. His writer’s mind mixed with the minutiae of the siblings’ memories gives the opening chapters of All That is Mine the feel of both intimacy and detachment.
In the first of the novel’s four parts, the events around June’s disappearance and the aftermath are relayed in the present day from the perspective of a childhood friend who’s now an author and has reconnected with Miranda and Jeff, her older brother. As he spends time with both they unspool the past, leading him to consider it as the subject for his next novel. His writer’s mind, mixed with the siblings’ memories, gives the opening chapters of All That is Mine a feeling both intimate and detached.
A mood that is shattered when part two opens. Gone is the present and Jane Larkin takes center stage to tell her story. Her whereabouts are still unknown but she’s everywhere, narrating the lives of Jeff and Miranda from their childhoods into the years that follow. The remote feel of All That is Mine is nowhere to be found as Jane watches her family’s lives unwind without her. Particularly poignant are her observations of Miranda, shunned because of the cloud that hangs over her father, and left adrift, a lonely little girl in a family of males.
Males that come to dominate the remaining portions of the novel as part three is Jeff’s story and his inability to move past the grief of a missing mother and the toxicity of a father forever under suspicion, though never charged and always stoutly maintaining his innocence. This father, Dan Larkin, is the star of Part 4, albeit diminished by the Alzheimer’s ravaging his mind. No longer the brash, charismatic lawyer and father, any answers anyone ever wanted from him are smoke.
Four parts with four distinct personalities. All That is Mine is blurbed as a mystery suspense novel, but in passing through its pages Jane’s disappearance became less important than the lives involved. Not that she became less important. If anything, the emotional and psychological impact of her absence grows with each page. Some of this is dark, as the Larkin siblings are split on their feelings towards their father and haunted by unanswered questions, but the pages that resonated most were those about the relationships. Landay’s dive into the intricacies of human interactions is perfectly executed. Whether it’s Jane contemplating her marriage and how she’s perceived by others or Jeff and Miranda falling back into the patterns of childhood in their conversations as adults, these were the moments that stuck their landing.
For those expecting high suspense, this kind of character development will be unwelcome. The novel’s pace is necessarily slow to give even the most unlikable characters room to breathe. So much of All That is Mine I Carry With Me worked, but a plot twist towards the end that felt sloppy kept it from being five stars. Beyond that, this genre defying, well-crafted story brought me to tears and laughter in a way only the best writing can. I’m still thinking about it days after finishing.
(Librarian brain kicking in: I’ll re-read the earlier chapters and if I missed the twist setup, I’ll come back and give this 5 stars)
This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on a link and make a purchase of any kind, I get a small commission (at no cost to you).