Cover Image: Gone Like Yesterday

Gone Like Yesterday

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Member Reviews

This is not a book for people who do not like reading books where unexplained things happen and those things also don’t really have a name.
By nature, I am an analytical person who thinks that there are logical explanations for almost everything. One of the problems I have with my need to analyze almost everything is that I cannot enjoy things that don’t align with my expectations. When too many things start happening in a novel that do not make sense to me, I will go back and re read chapters and passages wondering WTF I misinterpreted or misunderstood because my brain sometimes has a hard time accepting the unexplainable and unexpected.
I honestly did not start TRULY enjoying this book until about 60% or so in. That’s not to say that I only enjoyed  40% of this story, it’s just that I was so wrapped up in trying to understand what the hell was going on.
And that was my fault.
I did not go into this book realizing that while it is a story of fiction, it also toes the line of historical fiction and fantasy/mysticism and once I understood what the author was doing, a switch flipped in my mind and everything became clearer.
As much as this novel is about a young woman who is looking for her lost brother, it is also a story about her being found. It’s a story about destiny and a story about  life and what our lives truly mean to not only us but to those who love and care for us.
What I liked most about the book is even in my confusion, I still felt like all of the characters were fated to meet and travel a journey together. The parallels between the main characters Zahra and Sammie were very intentional but not in a way that made the story predictable, it actually kept me on the edge of my seat wondering when the similarities would be significant. 
I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Janelle Williams is a literary daughter of Toni Morrison. The way she manages to weave this story together is nothing less than purely creative genius, I just hate that I spent so much time initially not enjoying the ride.
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In "Gone Like Yesterday", debut author Janelle Williams weaves together the stories of two separate families, highlighting what draws us together can be deeper than ties of blood.

Zahra makes her living as a college prep coach in New York City, helping children of wealthy families get into elite colleges. As a black woman who attended Stanford, she certainly has the experience to for her job, but nonetheless struggles with the irony of her work. She unexpectedly meets Trey when he's assigned as her Uber driver, and offers to help his niece Sammie with her college aspirations. Despite Sammie's initial reluctance, she and Zahra slowly connect beyond just her college essays and applications, and when Zahra finds out her brother Derrick has disappeared from their home in Atlanta, Trey and Sammie immediately offer to drive her and join in the search.

We come to learn that both Zahra and Sammie are able to see and hear the illusory gypsy moths; they've been present throughout both of their lives and appear just as quickly as they disappear. As Zahra's and Sammie's lives and pasts are slowly revealed, and as Derrick's story also comes to light, we come to learn what these moths represent - and the complex and lengthy weights of their pasts and their ancestors. This novel does certainly utilize aspects of magical realism, but it doesn't rely on it beyond the ability to create a tangible, concrete form for what many of us carry with us that's invisible to others.

Williams' writing is beautifully structured and emotional, and I appreciated how she alternated perspectives throughout the novel to carry the story forward as well as reveal different histories and aspects across each of the characters. Both Zahra and Sammie were complex, empathetic characters that I couldn't help but root for, and the relationship that the two are able to develop was one I wished I'd had with an older sibling. A number of weighty issues, including racism and multi-generational trauma, are covered with care and depth, and are especially relevant today.

An impressive debut work and one I'm sure many others will come to love.
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We were pleased to share this title at our live Spring Book Preview event for the Modern Mrs Darcy and What Should I Read Next communities on January 10, 2023, when 1200 readers attended live and twice that many watched the replay in the following week.  The PDF from that event is attached. Long story short: I've come to love Tiny Reparations and this title captures why. (I do feel the reviews are spoiler-laden: I'm glad I didn't know the meaning of the gypsy moths until it was revealed in the actual story.) Also mentioned in Episode 360 of What Should I Read Next.
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Beautiful prose and strong characters. A brilliant debut! I didn’t want the story to end. Thank you for the arc
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I absolutely adore Zahra. And her moths.

The air of magic and mystery, the feeling of not being quite sure of anything, the fog between magical realism and the blurred lines of activism and contemporary fiction. This book is such a brilliant blend of the best kind of character-driven stories. Debut novel? Simply excellent! And I was hoping for a playlist of songs since there are so many snippers and pieces of amazing music sprinkled throughout.

"Even the moths sing love songs."

And the final third of the book is un-put-down-able.


'Alright is reconnecting with an old friend.' 'Alright has been getting to know you.' 

"A ring shout, a call and response, from the past to the present, to the future and back again."
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