Some books grab you from the first page, and reading on and on becomes almost as important as breathing and eating. “Some of It Was Real” by veteran author Nan Fischer is one such novel. How can we not fall for a young woman who has as her best friend an intimidating but lovable 145-pound great Dane named Moose? We quickly fall for both Sylvie and Moose and we want to keep reading to see how Sylvie deals with the obstacles life has placed in her path.
The narrative is told from two points of view, both in first person. Sylvie tells her story, and we hear from Thomas, a journalist who is writing an expose of psychics like Sylvie who, as he sees it, prey on the vulnerable who are looking for communications from those they love from beyond the grave. Thomas, as we discover, has a personal interest in this as his mother has been searching for decades for communication from her husband and son who died in a tragic car accident when Thomas was young. In her search, she has spent much of her money and often calls Thomas asking for money. In fact, he usually only hears from her when she needs help, which is pretty tragic as well. There is much behind their family story that Thomas will uncover as he works to write his tell-all about Sylvie.
Sylvie doesn’t know much about her early childhood. She was adopted at the age of six, but remembers nothing from before that. What makes that extremely unusual is that she has an eidetic memory, so that anything she sees she can remember in complete detail, as if she were looking at a photograph of it. Yet her first six years of life are a mystery. She is estranged from her adoptive parents because they don’t approve of her “career,” being a psychic. We learn, as she tells the audience her “origin story,” how she started working as a psychic, but as we soon realize, and as is indicated in the title of the novel, only some of what she tells us is the truth. Some is real, and some, we learn later, is not. In fact, we learn the same about Sylvie. Some of what she apparently is and does is real, but only some.
Sylvie’s insecurity is also the source of her anxiety. Is what she does a scam, or does she really have psychic ability? She knows she helps people get past their grief over the absence of departed loved ones, but because only some of what she does is real, does that invalidate everything she does?
Sylvie chews Tums for stomach pain and needs Moose as an emotional support dog. But because she suffers from self-doubt, she worries that she won’t be able to connect with people and help them. As we see in these pages, she does indeed connect and help people often. But that self-doubt remains. When Thomas threatens to expose her as a fraud unless she takes him with her before her next show to prove that she isn’t researching the audience members in order to “con” them, she agrees to his demands.
But the relationship that develops isn’t what either of them expect. And, in fact, they are quickly helping each other uncover past secrets that they have been keeping from each other. While there is certainly romance in the story, it’s more about coming to terms with our past and living for the present and the future. But it’s also very much about finding out what is real and where we come from so that we have a solid stage from which to move on. Sylvie tells people — continually — that all the departed want is for us to be happy and content. And to move on.
What I love about Fischer’s writing is that the dialogue and the action are realistic and engaging; I couldn’t wait to keep reading in order to find out what Thomas and Sylvie learn through their investigations. I wanted to see how their relationship develops and grows. I was also charmed by Sylvie; Fischer’s description of her character through actions and dialogue reveals a truly good person. One thing that Thomas realizes, even as he doubts her true psychic abilities, is that Sylvie is extraordinarily kind to others, be they strangers or friends. The ending resembles life in that not all of the strings are neatly tied into bows; just as with real life, we don’t know what the future will bring. But we do know that Sylvie has finally laid to rest some of the demons that have haunted her since childhood.
This review was first posted on Bookreporter.com.