Tell Me You're Mine
Elisabeth Norebäck’s Tell Me You’re Mine was originally published in Sweden in 2017, and I’m so pleased it’s now available to English-speaking readers. It’s one of those books I hated to put down once I started reading, so be sure to have a good chunk of time to devote to it whenever you pick it up.
Stella is a psychotherapist who lives in Stockholm with her husband and teenaged son. A part of her loves her life, but there’s another part that wallows in her grief for the daughter who went missing from a popular vacation spot when she was just a baby. It doesn’t matter how many times Stella promises herself and those around her that she’s going to put the past behind her and concentrate on her blessings instead, thoughts of her lost daughter are never far from her mind.
When a young woman named Isabelle comes to her seeking therapy, Stella is instantly certain that she’s actually Alice, the daughter Stella hasn’t seen for twenty years. Of course, Isabelle knows nothing about her true identity, but Stella is sure she’ll be able to reveal the truth to her some time very soon. She just needs to gather the proof she needs to convince everyone, including Isabelle herself, that the baby who was assumed to have drowned is actually alive and well.
Isabelle is pretty sure her life is falling apart. Her beloved father has recently passed away, and her mother, with whom she has never been close, has told her he wasn’t her biological father after all. Feeling understandably adrift, Isabelle decides to seek counseling from Stella who has come highly recommended, but it soon becomes obvious that Stella has issues of her own to sort out, issues that will force Isabelle to question everything she thinks she knows about her family.
If you’re looking for something fast-paced and twisty, Tell Me You’re Mine probably won’t be the right book for you. It’s much quieter than a lot of the thrillers out there, relying on the mounting tension between the characters to propel the story forward. There are a couple of twists toward the end, but they’re not the novel’s main selling point. Instead, its strength lies with the complex characters Ms. Norebäck has created. These aren’t the picture perfect women who grace the pages of so much of today’s literature. Rather, Stella, Isabelle, and Kirsten, who is Isabelle’s mother, feel like women you might actually encounter out in the world. They have distinct strengths and weaknesses, and their actions always come off as authentic.
I initially found some of the writing to be a bit stilted. I’m not sure if this is due to the translation or if I simply needed to get used to the author’s writing style, but the first fifty pages or so were kind of difficult for me to get through. Fortunately, the story itself sucked me in, and the writing ceased to be an issue after a while.
Parts of the story are quite disturbing, but not because of anything particularly graphic. It’s more that the characters go through some pretty tough stuff, and the author is adept at making her readers feel like they’re right there in the thick of things. I’m always super pleased when I come across an author who can do this, and I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for whatever Ms. Norebäck puts out next.