What I Had Before I Had You

What I Had Before I Had You

A Novel

Book - 2014
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Returning home to Ocean Vista on the Jersey Shore with her teenage daughter and her nine-year-old son Daniel, who has bipolar disorder, Olivia must finally embrace the birthright inherited from her mother, Myla, a beautiful and erratic psychic, when Daniel disappears. Olivia Reed was fifteen when she left her hometown of Ocean Vista on the Jersey Shore. Two decades later, divorced and unstrung, she returns with her teenage daughter, Carrie, and nine-year-old son, Daniel, recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Distracted by thoughts of the past, Olivia fails to notice when Daniel disappears from her side. Her frantic search for him sparks memories of the summer of 1987, when she exploded out of the cocoon of her mother's fierce, smothering love and into a sudden, full-throttle adolescence, complete with dangerous new friends, first love, and a rebellion so intense that it utterly recharted the course of her life. Olivia's mother, Myla, was a practicing psychic whose powers waxed and waned along with her mercurial moods. Myla raised Olivia to be a guarded child, and also to believe in the ever-present infant ghosts of her twin sisters, whom Myla took care of as if they were alive with diapers, baby food, an empty nursery kept like a shrine. At fifteen, Olivia saw her sisters for the first time, not as ghostly infants but as teenagers on the beach. But when Myla denied her vision, Olivia set out to learn the truth, a journey that led to shattering discoveries about herself and her family. In this novel the author seamlessly weaves together the past and the present, as she examines the relationships between mothers and daughters, and the powerful forces of loss, family history, and magical thinking.
Publisher: New York : Harper Perennial, 2014
Edition: First Harper Perennial edition
ISBN: 9780062237842
Characteristics: 278 pages ; 21 cm


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Michael Colford Jul 13, 2014

Olivia returns to her childhood home of Ocean Vista on the Jersey shore for the first time since her rebellious adolescence. Now she has a teen-aged daughter of her own, as well as a son who struggles with bi-polar disorder. When a split second moment separates Olivia from her son and he can't be found, Olivia finds her memories spiraling back to her last summer in Ocean Vista; when she left her mother and discovered the truth about her family.

Sarah Cornwell is a talented writer. Her prose is eloquent and well-structured, as is her plot and pacing. Yet there was something missing from What I Had Before I Had You that kept me slightly emotionally distant. Something kept it from being a great book rather than a good book. My rating is a little harsh -- if half stars were allowed, this would be a 3 1/2 star book. As a story about family secrets and struggling with mental illness, Cornwell demonstrates that she knows her stuff.

Jun 28, 2014

A beautifully written story about a girl growing up with an unreliable mother who claims to be psychic. Narrated with regret and sadness, it really draws the reader into the world of bipolar disorder and what it's like to grow up with this illness in the forefront.

Apr 09, 2014

As always, a good story and strong characters. Read the series in order for a better understanding of Kate.


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