‘Searching for Mr. Yesterday’: A Review
1980s nostalgia enlivens this reflection on memory — the sweet, the bittersweet, and the heartbreaking
Disclaimer: Please note I received a free ARC of this book from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for my honest review.
Suzy is fifty-five, divorced, and has a close relationship with her adult son. She is an artist who has put her creativity on hold for five long years to care for her mother as she declined deeply into dementia. Now her mother has died, placing Suzy at a crossroads in her life.
She receives a letter from her first boyfriend, Johnny. He has enclosed a CD copied from a long-lost mix tape he found, one he had made for her twenty-five years ago and had forgotten about.
Just seeing the list of songs he chose brings pieces of them to Suzy’s mind. Lyrics she has not thought about in years, along with sparks of memory:
She is ten and illicitly attending her first concert. She and Johnny are awestruck by David Bowie and the entire experience. “She has never been anywhere this thrilling, this hot and dark and crowded and noisy. For the first time she has a sense her own life doesn’t have to be constrained.”
Her memory moves forward. She is fourteen and seeing Johnny again; she is sixteen and they are a couple, evading her mother’s restrictions to be together. Johnny’s parents provide the warmth she is missing in the austere and sterile environment of her home.
Their relationship does not survive the distance after Suzy goes away to college. She moves on, with only a “Dear John” letter to say goodbye.
She goes on to have other relationships that are each passionate and exciting in their own ways. Now, years later, single for a long time, and freed from her obligations to her mother, she is finding herself again. Johnny’s letter and CD set a perfect tone as she tries to rediscover the magic of her youth.
This trip down memory lane means a lot of self-reflection and reconnecting with another ex-boyfriend. Eventually this deep-dive into the past unearths a long-buried experience of loss.
Rayner’s writing is conversational in style; the reader comes to feel like Suzy is someone we know. She beautifully conveys the memories of youthful joy and possibility that come back when hearing the songs we grew up with.
The only thing I would do differently is to leave the twist part out of the title. I would have preferred to read the book not knowing that something particularly unexpected was coming.
Fans of women’s fiction will appreciate this touching story of romance, nostalgia, friendship, healing, and parent-child connections.
I’d like to thank Reedsy Discovery, Sarah Rayner, and Creative Pumpkin Publishing for the opportunity to read and review this ARC.