“Book Review: I Don’t Think of You (Until I Do)”
Reviewed by Joe Walters
A heartbreakingly honest excavation of longing, modern romances.
In I Don’t Think of You (Until I Do), Tatiana Ryckman nestles into your head and pokes around in there. With the help of her intensely likeable protagonist, she illustrates the highs and lows and never-ending curiosities of not-living-together relationships. This literary romance isn’t just a story about some characters; it’s a story about lovers who you can’t help but recognize.
The literary fiction novella follows a familiar plotline: our protagonist wants love, needs love, and searches for it in what is probably the wrong person. Now, this is usually the place where I introduce the characters, tell you their names. But I can’t do that.
Because the characters don’t have names. And they don’t have genders either.
Ryckman does a flawless job of exploring the specific nuances of this relationship to show us that it’s real and honest while also proving that love is love and longing is longing, no matter who you are and who you are interested in.
I Don’t Think of You (Until I Do) takes what we expect out of relationships and reveals what it is we’re unwilling to admit about them. The narrator idealizes their significant other, confusing them with their own understanding of what they could be. Readers overthink text messages along with the narrator on their way through the ups and downs of hope for the narrator’s future: whether that comes in the form of a happy relationship or in the protagonist’s willingness to accept the hopeless truth of where their love is headed.
“I believed it was the end.
“And it was the belief that made you a religion.”
While the narrator falls deeper in love with the idea of “You,” I fall deeper in love with the specifics of their relationship. There are some things that our brains just won’t let us think—too honest, too real—but this protagonist has no problem bringing it to the forefront.
In addition to the novella’s ability to stay intensely personal, it is also filled with snap-shot images that linger in your mind, drawing you toward the climax and resolution with an almost dream-like reality. All you can do is sit back and take trips in the car with the characters, hoping for the best on the way back to the “same bed my mind had been caught in for months.”
I’m not sure I could ask for a better example of what an honest breaking relationship feels like. The narrator is willing to confront the truth, but they still lose to it. It’s above them, even while it makes up everything that they talk about for these 116 pages.
Another fascinating authorial choice comes in the form of various quotes from famous people. In using quotes, the narrator connects to any reader who has searched for the right quotes online that helped teach them that they were not alone. And just like the quotes the narrator uses, the book itself offers the reader that world and experience that can help readers understand their own relationship, extending the feeling of being understood.
“Your absence became you. Which is to say it cast you in a flattering light, and then you were more the light and less you, and when you could find a moment to call, we again revisited the impossibility of everything.”
I’m not sure I could recommend I Don’t Think of You (Until I Do) enough. For those who have recognized when the magic is gone in a relationship, it illustrates how it’s normal. How it’s fine. How love is love, and time will pass, and something will happen. The journey will change whenever you’re ready for it to. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t still enjoy the hope while it’s happening.
Publisher: Future Tense Books
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