Sarah Suk, The space between here and now, HarperCollins Publishers, November 2023, 310 pp., RRP $19.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780063373129
Our memories can be our most precious but also our most painful possessions, and for many of us, the sense of smell is the strongest link we have to experiences from our past. A whiff of our mother’s perfume when walking through a department store or the smell of a homemade meal might take us back to our childhood in an instant, while the scent of the ocean might help us recall long summers at the beach. 17 year old Aimee is constantly alert, because even a trace of a familiar smell can have a dramatic effect; her diagnoses of Sensory Time Warp Syndrome (STWS) can send her physically back to a memory from her early life, and she has no way of knowing how long she’ll be gone…
Using this invented condition, Canadian writer Sarah Suk cleverly explores several themes – memory, grief, family breakdown – and highlights the different ways that people process their emotions and respond to challenging life events.
The unpredictable nature of STWS means that Aimee feels she cannot move forward in her life – what if she disappears while driving, or during a romantic moment with a partner? Equally, Aimee’s stifling relationship with her father and his inability to let Aimee seek the information she needs – about her mother, who left them so long ago, or her condition, which is impacting her life – is also holding her back. That is until Aimee decides to take control, booking a flight to her parent’s homeland, Korea, where she plans to find out more about her mother, and perhaps discover why her childhood memories, which she relives through her condition, are not aligning with what her father has always told her.
This YA book is an easy and enjoyable read, and the use of time travel in the form of a rare condition creates several sub-plots that are interesting and different. Blending Aimee’s fear of vanishing with her need to learn more about her family is deftly handled, and the characters are likeable and realistic. At times the story is a little slow in pacing, however there are enough events to maintain interest, and while there won’t be readers who share her condition, they will relate to the challenges Aimee faces and appreciate the positive ways in which she approaches them. For readers 14-17.
Reviewed by Kay Oddone