“All this has happened before and will happen again,” President Roslyn said in “Battlestar Galactica,” and this sentiment informs Gian Sardar’s strange, beautifully written thriller. Abby Walters, a Los Angeles estate jeweler, is being tormented by nightmares—one nightmare in particular—that have returned after 14 years. They are so vivid and terrifying that she feels the need to get to the bottom of them, once and for all.
Abby believes her dreams have something to do with her grandmother’s ring, and something to do with what happened to her grandmother’s best friend, a woman named Claire Ballantine. Claire disappeared a few years after World War II, and her husband, William, killed himself shortly thereafter. Abby’s high school reunion is in the offing anyway, so she leaves her recalcitrant scriptwriter boyfriend behind and returns to her childhood home in Minnesota. She arrives just in time to learn there’s a serial rapist on the loose, and her former high school crush is one of the detectives trying to hunt him down.
Sardar titles Abby’s chapters “Now” and alternates them with “Then” chapters, which center on the unhappy Ballantines and Eva, the girl whom the wealthy and guilty William has turned to for solace. Eva is poor, from a Minnesota nowheresville that she longs to put behind her for several reasons. William may be her ticket out, but she truly loves him. Cleverly, subtly, even insidiously, Sardar shows how Abby’s life parallels the lives of the Ballantines and the hapless Eva. What happened “then” has much to do with the nightmares Abby’s having “now”; the author seems to suggest that some catastrophes can be impressed upon the genes as indelibly as they can on the mind and the memory of them passed on. No, Abby is not a secret descendant of Eva or the Ballantines, but she is a descendant of her grandmother. Readers won’t be surprised to learn that Sardar co-wrote a memoir called Psychic Junkie.
You Were Here will make you wonder about the nature of reality even as it gives you goosebumps.