Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz was my top 2021 read. A powerful book that everyone needs to read. It is beautiful, painful and moving.
I was going to write a summary of this story, but honestly, I think it’s best if you go into the book knowing as little as possible. Instead, I’m sharing the book blurb…
This is not just another novel about a dead girl. When she arrived in New York on her 18th birthday carrying nothing but $600 cash and a stolen camera, Alice Lee was looking for a fresh start. Now, just one month later, she is the city’s latest Jane Doe, an unidentified murder victim. Ruby Jones is also trying to start over; she travelled halfway around the world only to find herself lonelier than ever. Until she finds Alice’s body by the Hudson River. From this first, devastating encounter, the two women form an unbreakable bond. Alice is sure that Ruby is the key to solving the mystery of her life – and death. And Ruby – struggling to forget what she saw that morning – finds herself unable to let Alice go. Not until she is given the ending she deserves. Before You Knew My Name doesn’t ask whodunnit. Instead, this powerful, hopeful novel asks: Who was she? And what did she leave behind? The answers might surprise you.
And the opening lines…
You will already have an idea of me.
There are enough of us dead girls out there. From a distance, so many of our stories look the same. That’s bound to happen when someone on the outside tells the story, speaks as if they knew us. They pick over our remains, craft characters from our ashes, and this is what the living get left with. Someone else’s impression of who we used to be.
If I tell you my story. If I let you know what happened to me. Maybe you’ll see who I was. Who I am. Maybe you’ll like the truth of me better, and maybe you’ll wish this for every dead girl from now on. The chance to speak for herself, to be known for more than her ending. Wouldn’t that be something. After everything we’ve lost.
This book is beautifully written, full of haunting passages. If you manage to read it without being moved, and without getting angry, then you have a cold dead heart.