Imagine my disappointment when I finished the book and couldn't figure out just what it was about the book that left me unsatisfied. Was it the main character, Alice? Was it the ending? What the heck was it?!
Alice Lind is a psychologist in 1925 Oregon. She travels to Gordon Bend, Oregon to administer IQ tests to schoolchildren. Frustrated by the doors in higher education staying firmly closed to her because she's a woman, Alice travels the country for a job that mostly leaves her unsatisfied and yearning to be accepted into a PhD program for psychology. Alice is an intelligent, passionate young woman who has to walk a fine line between being a respectable young professional, and living her life in a way that makes her happy. So far, she hasn't found a perfect mix, and deep down her frustration has stoked quite a bit of resentment against men and society.
Alice arrives in Gordon Bend, Oregon to administer tests, but also because she's been asked by a local father, Michael O'Daire, to look into his daughter's claims that she once lived as a brilliant young female mathematician who tragically drowned in Kansas decades before. Alice is pretty skeptical; after all, she is a scientist, and believes she must consider all psychological possibilities before arriving at reincarnation as an explanation for Janie's odd behavior and astounding grasp of advanced mathematics. Janie O'Daire is only seven years old.
Gordon Bend is a dismal small town on the coast, with plenty of atmospheric storms, a hotel run by Michael that is empty during the off-season, and Janie's teacher (and Aunt) and mother who want to protect her from anyone who may think Janie is crazy. It's an uphill battle for Alice to get Janie to confide in her and to win the trust of Janie's mother, Rebecca. Alice's confidence that her science will explain Janie's odd behavior begins to erode away as she gets to know Janie's story, and looks for facts to support Janie's claims of a previous life.
So why did this novel leave me with a vague sense of dissatisfaction? Well, I don't think I liked Alice very much. I liked her sister Bea; maybe because Bea seemed to embrace herself much more easily than Alice could accept who she was. Alice seemed at once helpless against society's strictures, yet her whole adult life was a giant push-back against those strictures. She was a confusing mess. And, to add to this, the vague attraction between Alice and Michael never seemed to be believable to me. It was a distraction, but part of the plot that made the whiz-bang of an ending possible. Janie's story was pretty interesting, and I was glad to see that play out to a satisfactory conclusion. But the added story of Alice's suspicions of having a past life herself seemed disjointed and didn't fit easily into the rest of the plot. Both stories seemed to be stitched together with a ragged seam. I think Cat Winters could have made Alice's subplot a standalone novel; it could have easily been a follow-up to Janie's story.
There were many parts of Yesternight that I enjoyed. I'm always interested in a good reincarnation thriller. This book has some good bones, but just didn't quite make it for me. But, don't take this review as a "do no read" sign. Read it for yourself, and let me know what you think. I would love to discuss this book with someone else who's read it.
Rating: 5/10 for a plot that has some really interesting points, but falls short in character likeability and some disjointedness in the story line. Give it a read and decide for yourself. Fans of reincarnation thrillers will be intrigued.
Available in paperback and e-book.