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Watching You Without Me

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The highly anticipated new literary suspense novel from Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning author Lynn Coady.

After her mother’s sudden death, Karen finds herself back in her childhood home in Nova Scotia for the first time in a decade, acting as full-time caregiver to Kelli, her older sister. Overwhelmed with grief and the daily needs of Kelli, who was born with a developmental disability, Karen begins to feel consumed by the isolation of her new role. On top of that, she’s weighed down with guilt over her years spent keeping Kelli and their independent-to-a-fault mother, Irene, at arm’s length. And so when Trevor — one of Kelli’s support workers — oversteps his role and offers friendly advice and a shoulder to cry on, Karen gratefully accepts his somewhat overbearing friendship. When she discovers how close Trevor was to Irene, she comes to trust him all the more. But as Trevor slowly insinuates himself into Karen and Kelli’s lives, Karen starts to grasp the true aspect of his relationship with her mother — and to experience for herself the suffocating nature of Trevor’s “care.”

Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning author Lynn Coady delivers a creepy and wholly compelling novel about the complex relationship between mothers and daughters and sisters, women and men, and who to trust and how to trust in a world where the supposedly selfless act of caregiving can camouflage a sinister self-interest.

376 pages, Paperback

First published October 1, 2019

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About the author

Lynn Coady

24 books174 followers
Lynn Coady is an award-winning author, editor, and journalist. Her previous novels include Saints of Big Harbour, which was a national bestseller and a Globe and Mail Top 100 book, and Mean Boy, a Globe and Mail Top 100 book. Her popular advice column, Group Therapy, runs weekly in the Globe and Mail. Coady is originally from Cape Breton Island, NS, and is now living in Edmonton, Alberta.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 188 reviews
Profile Image for Carol.
611 reviews203 followers
March 10, 2020
I'm not sure how I feel about this book. It was well written and an interesting story with some great characters but I wasn't sure what to make of it. I think I was expecting it to be more sinister than it was and kept waiting for something startling to happen. Things got a little tense in the last 30 or 40 pages, more like what I was expecting, but, like other readers, I was totally baffled by the ending. I must have read it 6 times and still don't understand. I didn't like the book well enough to recommend it but I think if the subject matter appeals to you, you should read it and decide for yourself.
Profile Image for Krista.
1,349 reviews512 followers
October 17, 2019
For lack of a daughter, then – a proper daughter, a daughter who called more than once every couple of months, a daughter who visited more than once a year, a daughter willing to shoulder her way past the slammed-shut door of “Fine” every time she asked her mother, “How are things?”– Irene had managed to recruit herself a son.

Watching You Without Me is a psychologically astute family drama, and I'd almost go so far as to call it a domestic noir/thriller except that it never goes over the top into psycho-nanny/baby-snatcher/evil-ex territory. Instead, author Lynn Coady tells us a story about recognisably human characters doing their best in difficult times – even the character who adds menace to the narrative is acting true to his own nature and doesn't feel gratuitous or overblown. I enjoyed every bit of this. (Note: I read an ARC and passages quoted may not be in their final forms. Slight spoilers in plot overview.)

I was so grateful in that moment. When I tell this story now and people ask what I was thinking, it's this feeling of incongruous peace that I remember. It exists in my memory as the quick, satisfying sound of a zipper being hoisted. I never mention it, though – not that it seems so irrelevant compared to the details that come later, the juicy stuff that makes people cringe and cover their eyes. It's just that this is the moment of which I'm most ashamed. Ziiiipppppp! My pathetic gratitude. The wide-open door of it.

When she was a know-it-all twenty-year-old, Karen told her mother that it was time she put Kelli – Karen's developmentally delayed older sister whose care consumed all of her widowed mother's time and energy – into a group home and get on with her life. Irene explained that this was her life and the ensuing fight saw Karen leave their Nova Scotia home for Toronto – where she went to school, got married, and divorced – and an unbridgeable chasm was thus opened between mother and daughter. When Irene eventually died of cancer, Karen returned home to arrange for Kelli's placement in group care, but over the weeks they spent together, Karen began to remember how special her sister had always been; began to wonder if she might actually be able to care for her sister as her mother had; and besides, what did she have back in Toronto to return to? Karen has help from the team of community support workers that her mother had hired, and one in particular – a forceful man named Trevor who has a close and teasing relationship with Kelli – appears to have been indispensable to Irene, and Karen is so grateful for his help that she allows him to become indispensable to her, as well. By the time Karen realises that Trevor is bullying and gaslighting her – and realises that he must have been doing the same to her mother – he is too entrenched in their lives to easily dislodge.

It's the characters who really bring this story to life. Kelli is totally real without being played for pathos or absurdity – her tics and stubbornness, her shy smiles and screaming; Coady does a wonderful job of showing how equally sweet and frustrating she would be to care for while always maintaining her dignity of character. Trevor might be a bully and a narcissist, but you can identify with the motivations that make him want to cling to this family. And it was interesting that Karen had lost her father when she was young – having been raised in a “girl-world”, Karen felt unprepared to deal with men, whether her erstwhile husband or the forceful Trevor. Whenever I'd be thinking, “Why don't you just throw him out?”, I'd then need to remind myself that that's what someone in a book might do, maybe not someone who just lost her estranged mother and who was now overwhelmed with the care of her sister and who had never really learned to talk to men. The way everything and everyone gels together just feels like real life.

I know that it's perverse, the pleasure I get from this whole process. That's why I've told this story as many times as I have, to so many different people. It's one of those pleasurable if not quite healthy compulsions, like picking obsessively at your cuticles.

I also liked the format of having Karen address the reader periodically, as though personally and intimately unspooling her best yarn. The foreshadowing this allowed for was expertly and engagingly done and it helped to build a sympathetic relationship with the narrator (and especially when Karen points out what various listeners to her tale had interjected about what she could have done differently along the way, answering my own concerns and making her seem even more human; and especially since she could laugh about all this is the future). Everything about this was interesting and relatable – and in particular what it has to say about family relationships and what responsibilities we have to each other – and I liked the whole thing.
Profile Image for DeB.
968 reviews247 followers
October 12, 2020
Kind of mesmerizing, in a bad dream sort of way- I simply couldn’t put this one down... Karen’s mother has died and left her with the job of sorting the family home and her disabled sister into some cohesive solution, none of which is easy to come into after years of near alienation. Nothing is as simple as Karen assumed it was going to be; a month absence from her career hardly begins to touch the surface. The care aide, Trevor, has inveigled his way into her mother and sister’s lives, and Karen is overwhelmed by the burden she faces.

The suspense creeps insidiously, as the care aide’s presence begins to loom more and more ominously and Karen gradually loses more and more confidence in herself. A very human situation, I thought- to arrive, unprepared for another family member’s life, guilt propelling actions and best intentions clouding judgement if all the facts have been withheld, as is so often the case as time, distance and misunderstandings occur within families. And then, the confusion, the possibility of opportunistic or malevolent others- Coady is masterful in layering all of this here, slowly building, sketching the parameters anyone might discover within themselves, the vulnerability and the sense that life has come apart, unhinged.

Her character studies are simply wonderful, even though I can say that I wasn’t particularly enamoured by any of them! The angst and conflict at every turn makes for great suspenseful reading, but not for warm and fuzzy empathetic moments.

I felt a wee bit creeped out, as I have upon reading Minette Walters- the kind of slow psychological burn inside someone’s head, or a number of heads, and none especially comfortable, hanging on like a car wreck in slow motion with hope for some brake power at the point of impact, not big combustion... yet, tinged with a degree of horror, the ride over... and around the next corner, the same human condition continues to plague. Deliciously vile, true to life and frustratingly recognizable.

Very, very good... I’ll be checking more out by this author! A very strong 4.5 stars.

Profile Image for Vicki.
334 reviews142 followers
May 27, 2019
Still catching my breath and sorting my thoughts as I recover from this suspenseful psychological study of familial love and guilt ... My admiration for Lynn Coady's craft has reached new heights.
56 reviews4 followers
May 7, 2020
I went to Goodreads after finishing this book hoping to come to a better understanding of why it seems to be so well liked. I guess it's a matter of perspective; I did not enjoy this very much. I quite like Coady's writing, but I found there were many aspects to the plot I found tough. The main character, Karen, was just not very likeable in my opinion. She was in a tough situation, and I wanted to empathize with her. The relationship between Karen and Trevor (a caregiver who helped Karen's mother and took Kelli, Karen's challenged sister, for walks) was frustrating for me. The psychological influence of Trevor is alluded to a few times by Karen, as she tells her story, telegraphed events to blatantly; for me it detracted away from the “psychological thriller” aspect of the novel. Other readers seemed to consider these "hints" a positive aspect, so, again, I guess it depends on one's perspective. By about two-thirds of the way through the novel, I was thinking “get it over with”. There were just too many "hints" about something occurring, and too many pieces of advice and behaviours involving Trevor that were ignored. Because of this I had a hard time empathizing withKaren. Even the ending situation fell too contrived to me. The book was well-written, and had potential; it just “missed the mark” for me.
Profile Image for MargaretDH.
991 reviews17 followers
March 17, 2022
4.5 stars, that I'll round up to 5.

I really liked this. In this tight, almost claustrophobic narrative, Coady takes us through grief, recriminations, mounting dread and fury, but in the most relatable way I've ever read. Karen, our first person narrator, has just lost her mother and must return from Toronto to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia to pack up her mother's house and make arrangements for Kelli, her older sister, a woman with developmental disabilities. One her Kelli's homecare workers steps in to help, and things begin to go sideways.

Even though the back of the book basically tells you what's going to happen, this kept me on the edge of my seat. Not in an escapist, fantastical, larger-than-life thriller way, but because if someone I knew told me this story, I would believe every word of it. And that's even how Karen tells you the story, with asides about how other people have responded when she gets to this part of the story, or how even she can hear what a bad idea it was in retrospect. All of the building action here has happened to us or someone we know, and seeing them all strung together is both eminently understandable and terrifying.

Coady has built some wonderful characters here: Karen, and her strained but functional relationship with her mother. Trevor, with his menacing good humour. Kelli, with her infectious chuckle and frustration at red lights. I particularly appreciated Kelli. In my experience, there's a tendency to view adults with developmental disabilities with a kind of low-level, lizard brain revulsion for the different or to ascribe to them a blessed role, people full of light who are put here to teach us how to be better people or provide perspective. Both of these views miss the point that they're people, people with their own dignity, foibles and attitudes. Coady does neither of these things, though she certainly allows the people in the book to map their thoughts and desires onto Kelli, and perhaps read more into her actions than actually exists, while not allowing the narrative to do that. It's a fine line to walk, and Coady does it masterfully.

And Coady mashes these three together in a suburban house, and turns up the heat. It's extremely effective. And Karen, growing up with only her mother and sisters, and coming out of a failed marriage, has an awkwardness around the domestic side of men that only ramps up the sense of unease here.

Plus, Coady really does a wonderful job of evoking the cultural sense of the East Coast and Halifax here, and I just loved that.

I bought this on sale and had it hanging around for quite a while with no real plan of when I would read it. I'm so sorry I waited. Once this got rolling, I read it whenever I could, even in snatches in the elevator, or when I was waiting at the cafe. If anything about what I've said or the description makes you think you might want to pick this up, you absolutely should.
Profile Image for Elaine.
1,513 reviews1 follower
July 2, 2020
Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC of Watching You Without Me.

This is my first book by this author so I was pleased when my request was approved.

** Minor spoilers ahead **

The writing was good; sadly, the plot didn't capture my interest as I thought it would mainly due to the main character, Karen.

Karen has returned to her childhood home to care for her mentally disabled sister, Kelli, after the death of their mother, Irene.

Karen and Irene were estranged for many years and had never reconciled before the older woman's death.

As a result, Karen discovers Irene had been relying on Kelli's caregiver, Trevor, a slimy worm who had insinuated himself into the womens' lives.

The story was not as suspenseful and dramatic as I had hoped.

The majority of the narrative is focused on Karen's reminiscences of her mother and childhood, how much she resented Irene caring for Kelli, and her guilt over not having patched things up with her mother.

Karen is an unlikable character; she lacks self esteem and basic street smarts.

She is a doormat, weak, insipid and the decisions she makes is uncharacteristic of an educated woman with two degrees (as she tells the reader herself) who was previously married to a man with similar tendencies.

She is bullied, psychologically and emotionally manipulated and continually makes excuses for Trevor's behavior, which is the worst thing anyone can do, validating the actions of an abuser.

I couldn't stand Karen and her ridiculous actions made this a frustrating and unsatisfying read.
Profile Image for Alexis.
Author 6 books131 followers
November 2, 2019
A rare five star review from me. I loved the plot of this novel, and the way it was written. Karen, who narrates in the first person, moves back to Nova Scotia after her mother has passed away from cancer. She is left to care for her sister Kelli, who is developmentally disabled. One of Kelli's caregivers, Trevor, has a strange relationship with the family. The book is both domestic and sinister, at the same time. There is a hint of domestic noire, but it's also a book about caregiving, about mothers and daughters, and about family roles. Coady also has a biting sense of humour, which I really enjoy. Really loved this book.
Profile Image for Ramona Jennex.
823 reviews4 followers
August 12, 2019
The protagonist, Karen Petrie, tells the story of what happened on her return to Nova Scotia from Toronto when her mother passes and she is entrusted with the responsibility of her older sister (who needs constant care due to her developmental disability.) Her thoughts on her telling of her story:
“I know that it's perverse, the pleasure I get from this whole process. That’s why I’ve told this story as many times as I have to so many different people. It’s one of those pleasurable it not quite healthy compulsions. Like picking obsessively at your cuticles. Once, riding the bus, I saw a young woman across from me frowning at her bare forearms until at last she could no longer stand what she saw. She pulled out a set of tweezers and started plucking at the invisible hairs of her arm. It went on for a full ten minutes-just plucking and plucking at herself without looking up. My compulsion to tell this story has always felt a little like that. Although I’ve never told it this thoroughly or ruthlessly before, which I think means I’ll be done with it for good once you and I are finished here.”
There were so many times I wanted to take Karen by the shoulders and look her in the eye…... but then I would remember how fraught I was after the death of my son. I recognized the numbness, confusion and guilt of Karen. The brain protects the person from the shock –this is a time one is extremely vulnerable to manipulation/suggestion/paralysis. A thaw takes place over time and clarity resumes.
Lynn explores the complexity of caregiving, the difficult relationships of mothers and daughters and the manipulative nature of abusers. She treats the character of Kelli, who has a developmental disability in a non-stereotypical manner but with tenderness and respect. It is obvious why Lynn Coady is an award winning author. Once you start this book be prepared to make the space to read through to the end- a page turner for sure. (And make sure you have a cup of tea at the ready
Profile Image for Lori Bosworth.
44 reviews1 follower
September 25, 2019
Wow! I loved this book and couldn't put it down. It caught my attention from the first few pages, which isn't always the case. Lynn Coady puts on a master class about how to gradually increase the tension toward the "crisis" so that we become addicted to and invested in the characters' wellbeing. The three main characters, Karen, Trevor and Kelli, were very well drawn - I can understand Karen's ambivalence as a result of the grief/guilt she is experiencing due to her mother's death - while the relationship between Karen and Kelli illustrated the everyday challenges of looking after a disabled person. Some of the east coast dialogue had me laughing out loud, but this is a psychological thriller in which the reader will experience a slow burn towards one or perhaps two of the characters.
Profile Image for Penny (Literary Hoarders).
1,136 reviews130 followers
November 9, 2019
It was good. It was. But I need to frame this more so that it is seen in the context for how/why it was read at this time. My in-person book club chose/voted for another suspense/thriller novel. I cannot get behind reading anymore from this genre. I'm full up and okay, if I'm cranky about it - I'm fed up. Our book club needs to get out of this rut. The book was enjoyable yes, but it was also too similar to the already too many books we've been reading from this genre. We need to turn that page.
Profile Image for Ian M. Pyatt.
364 reviews
May 21, 2021
I really enjoyed this book. I did not know what to fully expect but as I read through it, I became engrossed in the story.

I cannot begin to imagine what it would be like to take of someone with the issues that Kellie had and kudos to those people that are health care and home care workers performing this task.

Trevor obviously had several issues and I thought they were well brought out throughout the book and it was interesting to see how controlling he became once he figured out that Karen was slowly coming to the realization that he was more than just an employee of Bestlife.

Karen seemed to become more focused on Kellie than herself as the story progressed and realized that her mother did love her, but was not able to show it because of Trevor.

Profile Image for Jeatherhane Reads.
343 reviews35 followers
July 26, 2020
Why do we feel the need to be polite to people who cross the line and act inappropriately? Maybe it is part of the Maritimes etiquette which requires us to be friendly and polite. I'd like to believe I would never be a naïve as Karen, but what makes this story so scary is that maybe it actually could happen to me.
“I had forgotten how smallish cities like this one worked, the way people found out about one another—and east coast people had a knack for this in particular.”
Karen’s mother has just died, and her older sister, Kelli, needs a caregiver. So Karen takes a month off work in Toronto to come home to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, to transition her sister into a care home. Her mother left a binder called “Kelli’s World!” which details the programs and helpers that are part of Kelli’s schedule.
One of these helpers is Trevor, who takes Kelli for walks twice a week. Right from the get go, Trevor is annoying. After a few chapters, I want to punch him in the face, and slap Karen because she refuses to set boundaries.
And Trevor is SO inappropriate. Looking back, Karen chalks up her gullibility to grieving for her mother and being overwhelmed with Kelli’s care. But everyone around Karen knows that Trevor is bad news, and his behavior just gets creepier. Karen continues to enable him until she finds herself in a scary situation.
“What was wrong with you, friends always ask when I get to this part of the story.”
Watching You Without Me is a compulsively readable story. It's set in east coast Canada, and I feel right at home among the tea and pop and Coach’s Corner—there is even a nod to Mr. Dressup.
Lynn Coady is a skilled writer. I love it when I discover a great Canadian author. I will be reading more of her novels.

Triggers: gaslighting, sexual abuse

I would like to express my thank to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an advance reader's copy of this book. This is my honest review.
Profile Image for Louise.
826 reviews
September 27, 2020
I don't particularly like reading about stupid people and this narrator was a complete idiot.
Profile Image for Barbara Carter.
Author 9 books51 followers
August 29, 2021
I have read and enjoyed all of Lynn Cody’s books, except “Hellgoing” is my least favorite.
I really like this book! I found the story always held my interest and the little hints of more to come that are dropped along the way. Lines that drive the story forward such as when she speaks of telling the story to others: They always ask about what was wrong with you…friends always ask when I get to this part of the story. When he (Trevor) placed his hand on my mother’s lawnmower and took it away from me. Etc.

The story is told by Karen who comes back to Nova Scotia after her mother’s death to tie up loose ends and one of those loose ends is dealing with her intellectual disabled older sister, Kelli. Her mother had planned for Kelli to go into a home after her death, but Karen starts to explore other options.
Trevor is a caregiver to Kelli and had become really close with their mother. Helping out around the house, going above and beyond his professional duties.
I found Trevor creepy right from the start. Unlike Karen who takes a long time in figuring out that Trevor is not the “good man” he appears to be.

Trevor actually reminded me of a man who had been in my mother’s life and maybe that’s why I recognized Trevor for what he was so easily.
I’m not so easily gaslighted!

This book is a great family/psychological drama, about friendships, mother-daughter relationships and care giving.
I loved Kelli and thought she was portrayed really well as someone with an intellectual disability.

I did expect more in the way of abuse from Trevor to the point of a sexual relationship with the intellectually disabled Kelli or even having gone that far with their mother.
I just know how men like these operate.
Growing up I knew of two so-called respectable men who had taken sexual advantage of a twenty-some-year-old intellectual disability woman.
I also know that fiction sometimes doesn’t want to go as deep and dark as real-life does.

All in all, this is definitely one of my favourite Lynn Cody books.
Profile Image for Ian.
Author 10 books29 followers
January 13, 2020
Following her mother’s death, 40-something Karen returns to Nova Scotia to care for her developmentally disabled sister Kelli and take charge of the family home. In Toronto, where she’s lived and worked for years, Karen has recently gone through a painful and messy divorce: these wounds are still fresh. Karen is a lone soul: her father is long dead and there are no other siblings. She seems to have few friends and no other relatives. About twenty years earlier, when she asserted her independence and left home determined to build a life that did not revolve around serving the round-the-clock needs of her mentally challenged sister, her mother accused her of selfishness. They argued, and the relationship since has been strained, to the point that, though they communicated, Karen did not even know that her mother’s cancer had advanced to the life-threatening stage. This is the setup for Watching You Without Me, Lynn Coady’s suspenseful tale of a grieving young woman’s efforts to break free of a past that has left her guilt-ridden and emotionally fragile. Enter Trevor, a support-worker employed by a care firm called Bestlife and assigned to Kelli’s case. Karen, in a highly vulnerable state and overwhelmed by the myriad chores and life-altering decisions that follow the death of a parent—concerning the house, its contents, Kelli’s future, and, as it turns out, her own future—is grateful for Trevor’s seemingly kindly insistence on helping out in any way he can. She realizes that he’s pushy and manipulative, controlling and temperamental, but is confident she can handle him, and since she has no one else to rely on she seeks his advice and accepts his recommendations on care facilities where Kelli could take up residence once the house is sold. Trevor becomes a fixture, assuming household chores and insinuating himself into her life in other less obvious ways. The story develops as a gradual dawning, with Karen resisting the evidence before her eyes until so much disturbing truth has been revealed that she’s forced to take drastic action. Coady’s masterstroke in this novel is Karen’s first-person voice: a breezy, uninhibited, occasionally expletive-laced, sometimes very funny vernacular that carries the reader along through the numerous twists and turns of an intricately plotted story. Watching You Without Me, a smart and enormously entertaining page-turner, is also a triumph of storytelling, filled with complex characters whose fates come to matter greatly.
242 reviews2 followers
February 22, 2021
Ostensibly this story is about a woman returning to Nova Scotia to take care of her dependent adult sister, after their mother dies. But it is about so much more and I loved the way the author spun the story about grief and sorrow as it translated into irritability and regret introducing us to characters who were far from perfect but oh, so relatable.

This book, this author, also made me smile with references to the ugliness of Fenwick Tower, the walkability of Spring Garden Road, and the beauty of the Public Gardens. Like a ‘ so there’ moment of pride that eastern Canada has brilliant writers too, and man, can Lynn Coady tell a story.

And, Oh yes, this book did win the Giller prize which can sometimes make me shy away from reading—just too literary and not much fun, but this story is the opposite. Instead it’s like reconnecting with a familiarity that you never knew you missed until you start reading. Loved this treasure.
Profile Image for Donna Wellard.
326 reviews14 followers
October 6, 2019
Her mother dies and Karen has come home to Nova Scotia to settle her mother’s affairs and take care of her developmentally delayed sister, Kelli. Enter Trevor, a caregiver who has helped Karen’s family in the past and Jessica, a childhood school friend who reappears in her life. I have experienced the dealings of a master manipulator in my own life, so all of my being hoped that Karen would realise what was going on before she got in too deep. Some people just don’t recognize or accept boundaries, so as a result this story gets pretty intense! Love and guilt here too but thin on grief, which surprised me. Lynn Coady is an excellent writer so the pace of this story will keep you hooked right to the end!
201 reviews3 followers
January 7, 2020
This one took a long time for me to get into but the reviews were so glowing that I stuck with it (that, and my inability to NOT finish a book, even if I enjoy it 0%) and by the end I was on board. It might have even been the ending that make me bring it up from a 2 star to a 3.5. It's certainly well-written and I liked the Canadian appeal, but the plot really dragged along for me.
Profile Image for catherine ♡.
1,150 reviews150 followers
May 27, 2021
*Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for a free e-copy in exchange for an honest review.*

Actual Rating: 3.5

Wow, this was a hard one to rate. It wasn't a bad read and I actually was quite invested in the outcome, but it was not necessarily a captivating book.

This book follows Karen. When her mother suddenly dies, she's forced to move back home to Nova Scotia and take care of her disabled sister Kelli. Even though she's new to everything, at least Trevor, a hired caregiver — and close friend of her mother — is always there to help. Karen grows to depend more and more on him, while at the same time feeling uneasy with his presence; he's pushy and bossy and seems to make himself a tad bit too comfortable in their home. But what right does she have to say anything when she was the absentee daughter who left to live her own life, the one who only called home once-a-month because it was what was expected?

The plot for this book definitely started out a little too slow for my liking, and it also wasn't the type of story I was expecting. From the original blurb I thought it would be more thriller/mystery and to be honest I think it does the book a disservice to market it that way — it's a lot more contemporary/family. I didn't really get into it until about 40% in. After that, even though I was more invested in the developments between Trevor and Karen, it still very slow, as if we were trudging towards an end result that I already saw coming. Nevertheless, I really appreciate the realistic and subtle way in which emotionally and mentally abusive relationships and questionable power dynamics were portrayed.

At its core, Watching You Without Me was not very character-driven, and Karen was not very likeable because it felt like she kept making bad decisions. HOWEVER. And this is a huge however: I get it. I completely understand the difficulty of recognizing toxicity and bullying when it's happening to you, and the difficulty in taking any action at all. It feels like Karen does well not as an individual, but in representing a concept, and I'm okay with that.

The writing style was overall pretty good. There were no lines that jumped out at me for their eloquence and it took me a while to get invested, but as a whole I felt like the book wrote a good story and made its reader think.

Overall, I think this would be good for a reader of contemporary fiction, especially one who reads about navigating dysfunctional family dynamics or taking care of a family member with disabilities.
Profile Image for Arianna  Mclaughlin (arianna.reads).
616 reviews24 followers
January 17, 2023
Watching You Without Me is an impactful and well-written analysis of family; grief; obligations; and desire. Coady creates a tight world that almost feels claustrophobic at times. You're constantly on edge and the tension in Coady's writing creates an overarching sense of doom where anything could happen.

Love the Nova Scotia location and descriptions. Recommend this for readers who like literary fiction with relatable themes and strong characters.

Profile Image for Kim.
295 reviews82 followers
December 26, 2020
4 stars

This was so well written. Until the very end, I didn't know whether or not to like one of the main characters although I knew that something was not as it seemed. This book definitely kept me turning the pages!
Profile Image for Alan Teder.
1,946 reviews86 followers
November 3, 2019
Slow-burn Caregiver Stalking Tale
Review of the House of Anansi Press paperback edition (2019)

In the past several years I've had a fairly intense grounding in the home care and the long-term care home environment with various elderly relatives. That experience introduces you to a whirlwind of personalities each of whom have their personal traits, quirks and foibles. The motherly warm-hearted bedside manner is the ideal and at the other extreme may be the insistent demanding cloying passive/aggressive character who is the family's bête noire in this excellent slow-burning paranoiac and suspense tale from Lynn Coady.

Things start out fairly benign as Karen assumes a home caregiver role with her mentally-challenged sister Kelli after their mother Irene has passed away. There is the usual daily/weekly cycles of PSWs (Personal Service Workers) and Social Workers. One of these stands out fairly quickly though and Karen gradually learns what her mother may have had to experience under Trevor's "care." There is a lot of foreshadowing towards a climactic event as you get the sense that Karen is telling the story in hindsight to friends who are variously shocked at decisions or points that Karen ignored or delayed acting upon along the way. So you know going in that she has survived the experience but you are still held in suspense waiting to know how it works out for everyone else.
Profile Image for Ann Marie.
454 reviews13 followers
November 6, 2020
Special thanks to Knopf Doubleday and NetGalley for the ARC of this book.

I read this book out of sheer boredom and it peaked my interest. It's about two sisters, Kelli and Karen, Kelli is at home in need of caretakers and her mom, then mom suddenly dies, so Karen finds herself moving back home to care for Kelli.

One of Kelly's caretakers Trevor is always around acting like the perfect caretaker and a shoulder to cry on and someone to talk to, and they get close, but as time goes on, Karen starts to wonder just what kind of relationship Trevor had with her mother before she died and it turns a little sinister. Nothing crazy and a twist I saw coming a mile away. My rating: Lukewarm compared to other books I've been reading lately, but altogether not a bad read.I could've read it in one day, but found myself wanting that thrill of not being able to do anything else but read this and I didn't get it. Shucks!

Well written, I was just hoping for something more sinister. 3 stars!
Profile Image for Deborah Bee.
365 reviews2 followers
October 6, 2019
Good read if you are a caregiver, but the mystery’s creepy side of the book is just too strained. There is a lot of joy in caring, funny situations when communication is strained and The book has heartwarming moments.
Profile Image for Corinne Wasilewski.
Author 1 book11 followers
October 12, 2019
After reading this novel, I can happily say that Lynn Coady is back! This is worth noting because I opened Watching You Without Me with some trepidation. Coady is one of my favourite authors, however, Hellgoing was a disappointment. Was it possible Coady had run out of meaningful stories to tell?

I suppose my affinity for Coady’s work relates to the familiarity of the maritime setting, the authenticity of the dialogue, her ability to really root out what drives her characters, and the ever present tensions around religion and family, all of which recur here in her latest novel. Coady and I are also similar in age which means we’re facing similar struggles simultaneously which only adds to the import of her stories for me.

Although the obvious plot line, the one that involves Trevor, is well played out and the character of Trevor exceedingly well done, it is the other story line that engaged me most. That is, the story of Karen and her mother. Life is very much a journey and sometimes we come full circle of our own accord. Coady captures this well as Karen is transformed from a self absorbed middle aged woman at cross purposes to her mother and everything her mother stands for to a woman who not only understands her mother, but, actually comes to embrace her thoughts and feelings as her own.

So well done!
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