By: Debbie Johnson
Publication Date: 2 April 2020
Format: Ebook, 384 pages
Having read all of Debbie Johnson’s previous novels, I knew I had to pick up Maybe One Day, her latest standalone.
The book is primarily about Jess, a woman approaching middle age who is now faced with the death of her mother. She is in the process of clearing out the attic with her cousin, Michael, when she finds a box of letters addressed to her in a handwriting that she thought she’d never see again. They are from her first and only love, Joe, a man whom her parents disapproved of from the start.
The letters transport Jess back to the tragic event which separated her and Joe, and she comes to realise that Joe never abandoned her, and that it was her parents who kept them apart. This leads to a burning curiosity to find out where Joe is now and to apologise for not responding to his letters. With no idea where to start, Jess and Michael visit Joe’s old friend Belinda, and set off on a journey to retrace Joe’s steps over the last seventeen years in the hopes of finding him.
I must admit that this book was not what I expected from Johnson, as her previous books have been much softer and not quite so heart wrenching as this one. The tragedy that separated the young couple is utterly devastating to read, with the future being cruelly ripped away from them at the height of their happiness. To then find out that her parents had been lying to her for years makes Jess feel guilty for not believing more strongly in Joe, when her life could have been very different to the lonely one she leads now.
In retracing Joe’s steps we learn how he tried to heal his pain by helping other people, having made a difference to many people over the years as he travelled. He never stayed in one place for long, but sent letters on Jess’s birthday for many years, allowing her to follow the postmarks in the hopes of finding him again. Although I did find this concept a little unrealistic, I found that I couldn’t stop reading about Jess and Joe, with Johnson keeping you guessing about whether Jess will find him again and, even if she does, will he have moved on?
Despite only experiencing the story from Jess’s point of view, I felt like we knew Joe as intimately as we knew Jess, with his letters being written beautifully. This is our only insight into his mindset and how he was left to suffer on his own, without Jess as his support. He has never been able to forget, and the way he clung on to Jess by sending those letters showed just how deeply he was capable of feeling.
I really enjoyed this book, despite it being sadder than anticipated and unlike Johnson’s usual novels. I devoured it pretty quickly, but must say that I was very disappointed with the ending and that prevents me giving it a 5 star rating. The book finishes very abruptly, when I was hoping that there would be a longer scene and simply more explanation than we are given. A couple more pages and I feel like this book would have been perfect. As it is, it makes for an enjoyable rollercoaster of emotion and I would still recommend it.
An emotional book that will have you in tears by the end, this is another impressive book by Debbie Johnson. Although I had my issues with the ending, I was completely immersed in the story and couldn’t put the book down until I had finished. The characters are well written and the flashbacks are beautifully juxtaposed with the present day. As with the rest of Johnson’s novels, I enjoyed the plot and highly recommend it.