You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
In the last year or so, I became hooked on Megan Abbott’s novels. The Fever is my favorite, though Dare Me was also excellent. Abbott examines the dark underbelly of female adolescence in a way that is both complex and sympathetic. She looks at individuals versus the collective and questions the way we create homosocial female societies. I had high expectations for You Will Know Me, and she did not disappoint.
I was born in the 1980s and grew up in the 1990s, when the golden era of Women’s Gymnastics in the United States began. The Mag Seven winning team gold at the 1996 Olympics was a defining moment for me. And since then, I have more or less followed women’s gymnastics. And that is the subject of our book. Katie and Eric Knox enrolled their daughter Devon in gymnastics when she was a toddler, after a freak accident left her missing a few middle toes. Devon proved to be ridiculously talented, and then it turned into a dream. The Olympic gymnastics dream is one compounded by hours at a special gym, several mortgages on the house, parents shifting jobs, and a single focus: getting Devon to Senior Level so she can compete for a chance at Olympic eligibility. But a death of a member of the community sends the entire gymnastics family reeling. Suddenly, the future is murky, and secrets abound, secrets that most families would wish could remain concealed.
The timing of this reading was ironic, because I read it during the Olympics. I never thought too seriously how much money and sacrifice goes into an Olympic dream, but Abbott wastes no time getting to the gritty details. It certainly is sobering to think that behind a Simone Biles is a family that either can or needs to afford the hours each day that must go into her skills and talents. Plus, no one can weave a spell and create a deep set of female-centered suspense like Abbott. You also feel sorry for the girls and the parents, though you also cringe at their choices. It’s an interesting, complex read.