The Plot: Leah’s boyfriend, Bastien, is dead. Since the police knocked on their apartment door, telling her about the accident, Leah has barely been able to function. University classes, her part time job, her friends, all fall by the wayside as she tries to live with her loss.
Bastien’s Aunt Abigail, a widow, understands Leah’s all consuming grief and offers Leah a retreat: to live rent-free in a house she owns. It offers Leah a type of vacation, a break from having to think about anything other than herself and her hamster — and what she’s lost.
Leah, who still hears Bastien’s voice in her head even though it’s been months since his death, is shocked and surprised when she finds herself physically attracted to and wanting someone new, a young man named Liam. Liam, like Leah, is taking a vacation from his “real life”. Neither is looking for a “relationship” but both need companionship.
The Good: Leah’s grief over her loss is intense; so intense that even though Come See About Me starts months after Bastien’s death, it is still as fresh and raw as if it was that day, that hour, that she found out Bastien, her first love, her first lover, was dead. I confess, I was relieved about when Come See About Me started; it would have been too much, I think, to experience Leah’s loss in anything other than flashback.
Bastien is dead and Leah can barely function or concentrate. The offer of Aunt Abigail’s unused house is an escape from Leah having to make decisions about her future or to return home; it’s an oasis, allowing her Leah to just be. Little is required of her except taking care of herself, keeping the house in good enough order so if Abigail visits she is not overly concerned, and taking care of her hamster, Armstrong. Leah is lucky to have a rent-free place, and watches her bank account, wondering what to do.
Come See About Me is not so much about Leah getting over or past Bastien’s death, but about Leah trying to figure out a new life without him, without being part of a couple. Her steps into a Bastienless future are small, but significant because of how long it takes her to get there: friendship with neighbors, a part-time job.
And Liam. Liam begins as just a young man Leah sees around the town of Oakville. And then, one night — not love. Leah looks at Liam and wants him: physically wants. The jolt of desire, desire not for love but to be touched and touch, rocks her. Like Leah, Liam is in Oakville to escaping his past; like Leah, he is looking for nothing more than a connection without commitment.
Leah isn’t looking for love; she’s looking for sex. Bastien was her first and only lover, and Leah’s wanting Liam shocks her in its intensity. The words used to describe her interactions with Bastien are blunt and matter of fact, just as her wanting him is blunt. Leah has shut herself away from life and people, yes, and it’s her body that first reaches out to another and is ready for another, before she can emotionally or mentally acknowledge her need for another.
Other things I liked about Come See About Me:
The setting, Oakville. It’s as important to Come See About Me as any character or event; by the end of the book, I knew its lakes and pubs and stores. When I went to the book website, I found that Oakville is an actual place outside of Toronto! Part of me wants to go visit, to see the places Leah saw.
The casual diversity throughout the book. Bastien is black; Leah’s best friend is Korean-Canadian. The older couple next door are lesbians (amusingly, Leah doesn’t at first realize their relationship).
The writing: “the future felt both distance and so certain that it didn’t seem to require any consideration.”
The author writes about how Come See About Me is New Adult in a terrific post explaining the background of the novel, the decision not to make Leah either a teen or a thirty-something. (If New Adult is new to you, check out my posts on New Adult).