Hello all, a little note before we begin to present you with a second review from Mark – my partner in crime, and sometimes, in reading. We occasionally will read a little together before going to sleep, read a few pages of our favourite books to one another, or even read together on a lovely summertime picnic, like pictured below. We always both have a book (or several!) on the go, and I’m here today to give you Mark’s review of one of the books he’s recently read, In Case You Missed It by Lindsey Kelk.
When Ros comes home after three years away, she’s ready to pick up with life exactly where she left it. But her friends have moved on, her parents have rekindled their romance, and her bedroom is now a garden shed. All of a sudden, she’s swept up in nostalgia for the way things were.
Then her phone begins to ping, with messages from her old life. Including one number she thought she’d erased for good – the man who broke her heart. Is this her second chance at one big love? Sometimes we all want to see what we’ve been missing…
It’s best to start by admitting, at this point, I am unashamedly a fan of Lindsey Kelk. So feel free to call this a review, but definitely a biased one. Though know that I hope to convey a sample of my enjoyment in the hope you might find something similar in this, or another, of Kelk’s books.
The first time I read anything by Kelk it was unintentional and, I must shyly admit, in jest. At some point around 7 years ago in the kitchen of a shared house, I did a dramatic reading of a section of What A Girl Wants. A week later, after wondering what happened in the story after (and before) my performance piece I found myself ordering a copy of that book and the one that came before it. The Tess Brookes trilogy ended up helping me get through a very busy and incredibly stressful multi work contract year and ever since then Kelk’s novels have serendipitously arrived as the perfect…indulgence? Distraction? I am not sure what to call it… It’s honestly like a holiday with old friends when you didn’t realise you needed one.
As my interruptions in Beth’s blog will retrospectively prove, I’m not a massive reader of fiction and, even then, often not particularly contemporary fiction. So Kelk’s work is something of a rarity to me and I am probably a rarity in her traditional audience. Kelk is someone who’s books I will now blindly pick up and have, looking back, had with me during significant times over the last few years. One was in my kit bag shooting the last short film. Another I scoured late night supermarkets for to take with me for my first international marathon. And so we get to 2020 and In Case You Missed It. As the first lockdown in England was ending and, from the 10-15 hours of news I was still watching per day, I knew the rollercoaster ride was far from over, Beth messaged me one morning – simply “New Lindsey Kelk book!”.
As ever, Kelk writes a warm story, but one that will occasionally challenge you, yet always make you feel part of the gang. The story is the perfection of formula. Proof that something done well doesn’t have to be revolutionary to be fresh and work elegantly. You could call the outcome early on if you were given to, but if you did you would be missing the point. As with the best stories, the joy is not where it’s going but how you get there. Going on the ride and engaging with what it makes both you and the characters feel. This is neatly also a wider theme in the book, one that I was surprised to find oddly profound at points. Discovering that your life and your loved ones aren’t quite who you thought they were. Just as Ros raced back to London, I wonder how many of us will want to race back to some idealised old life when we call the pandemic officially over? And what we will later realise we missed along the way.
‘It has been a while, what if he’s changed?’
‘He could have been turned into a unicorn that’s tasked with protecting the Holy Grail and I still wouldn’t think it was a good idea to text him,’ she said, bluntly as ever ‘You were together six months and it’s taken you three years to get over him. Don’t do this to yourself.’
‘it was nine months,’ I corrected. ‘Almost ten.’
The book weaves a way through a range of memorably awkward locales in a convincingly homely London, a converted garden shed, a dark disco, a suburban tennis club, all on a collision course with both a video games convention and Ros’ Parents renewal of vows (which, thinking about it, my parents also did last year!). I have probably been reading this book since that day Beth brought me back a copy. Picking it up and putting it down, reading it through 2 more lockdowns. Never quite wanting it to end, but always finding it comfortable to come back to after say, the chaos of my return to work or whatever rude word you want to use to describe last Christmas. In Case You Missed It is like a hug from an old friend, right before they call you an embarrassing schoolyard nickname, on a night spent talking about the past and the future. It’s a friendly book about where we’re going in life, having nostalgic feelings but dealing with the reality of now.
‘We tend to assume we’re entitled to the things we have, we rewrite history to make life easier for ourselves. It’s not the case, Ros.’
‘I know, mum’ I said quietly.
From a lakeside read on a summer picnic (pictured above) to finishing it in the bath mere hours ago, I was once again happy to have been on a Lindsey Kelk adventure, with a set of new but invitingly familiar characters, during another weirdly intense period in time. With another book due next year, I find myself wondering…. what possible journey we’ll all go on next?
It’s a random end note that, as a lifelong fan of pro wrestling, I always spotted occasional references in Kelk’s work that seemed too specific to be accidental. Later I would realise she is also a fan and now go looking for these nods, again this book didn’t disappoint. So this time, to bring my own, I used a WCW Arn Anderson trading card as a bookmark. No one needs to know this and the book itself will never appreciate it, but I had to tell someone to make it less odd.
May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽