Six Years by Harlan Coben

May 23, 2013

six years Plot summary (from the publisher): Six years have passed since Jake Fisher watched Natalie, the love of his life, marry another man. Six years of hiding a broken heart by throwing himself into his career as a college professor. Six years of keeping his promise to leave Natalie alone, and six years of tortured dreams of her life with her new husband, Todd.

But six years haven’t come close to extinguishing his feelings, and when Jake comes across Todd’s obituary, he can’t keep himself away from the funeral. There he gets the glimpse of Todd’s wife he’s hoping for…but she is not Natalie. Whoever the mourning widow is, she’s been married to Todd for almost two decades, and with that fact everything Jake thought he knew about the best time of his life—a time he has never gotten over—is turned completely inside out.

As Jake searches for the truth, his picture-perfect memories of Natalie begin to unravel. Mutual friends of the couple either can’t be found, or don’t remember Jake. No one has seen Natalie in years. Jake’s search for the woman who broke his heart, who lied to him, soon puts his very life at risk as it dawns on him that the man he has become may be based on a carefully constructed fiction.

Harlan Coben once again delivers a shocking page-turner that deftly explores the power of past love, and the secrets and lies that such love can hide.

Warning: MAJOR spoilers below!

Liked:

  • The book started out well. Coben is very adept at setting up his novels and feeding the reader just enough information to want to keep going (at least initially). I tore through nearly half the book very quickly before hitting the proverbial wall.
  • The reveal that Todd and Natalie’s marriage was a sham, that he was married to someone else entirely and had a whole separate life was unexpected and good. That came near the beginning of the book and was just as much of a WTF moment for me as it was for Jake.

Disliked:

  • Jake’s constant sighing and hand-wringing over Natalie, this woman he dated for a few months six years ago but just couldn’t forget, was way too much like Nicholas Sparks for my taste. I absolutely HATE these ridiculously overwrought portrayals of “true love” that never dies. I understand why Sparks needs to include this trope in his books, but Coben?? Come on. Please find a better motivation for your character to risk life and limb than some long ago summertime fling.
  • The plot became unnecessarily complicated and entangled the further along it went. I know Coben likes to weave all these different threads throughout the plot and then have everything come together in the end via some clever twist, but that didn’t really happen here. There was really just one thread — why did Natalie disappear? — that got progressively more complicated as the book went on. It was like The X-Files or 24, where the protagonist thinks they’ve found the culprit, only to learn that the conspiracy continues to another level. Boring.
  • The reveal, that Natalie was in some kind of “Fresh Start”, off-the-books witness protection program, and that Jake’s best professor friend also happened to be in the program, was just…anticlimactic. That was it? Really???
  • So these Fresh Start workers/volunteers all take oaths to kill themselves rather than reveal any information about the program and carry around cyanide pills in case of emergency? Are you fucking kidding me? What is this, a Cold War-era spy novel?
  • The happily-ever-after ending was so undeserved. I couldn’t stand Jake by the end of the book, and really hoped he and Natalie wouldn’t be able to get together. Oh, well.

Rating:

I used to really enjoy Harlan Coben books, but the last few just haven’t been up to snuff. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to sustain quality writing through each and every novel, so I don’t expect everything to be a blockbuster. But the trend with this particular author is definitely pointing downward. Maybe he should go back to Bolitar and forget about these standalones. I give Six Years 2 stars out of 5.

2 Responses to “Six Years by Harlan Coben”

  1. Couldn’t agree more with the review. Started off great but why not just tell everyone the truth. I loved this girl her husband died I am just trying to find her. Boom no more mystery. I would have preferred the she were some split personality mental case. Pretty disappointed in this book. Felt like he wrote just to get another book on the shelf.

  2. Totally true. This review is definitely correct. I would rate six years maybe 2 1/2 at the most.

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