Book Review (& FREE BOOK): You Don’t Know Me by Susan May Warren

To all who know her, Annalise Decker is a model wife and mother. She's a permanent member of the PTA, never misses a sporting event, and is constantly campaigning for her husband's mayoral race.

So begins the back-cover copy for Susan May Warren's latest novel, You Don't Know Me (Tyndale House 2012). But Annalise Decker has a secret. One that she's kept for twenty years–kept from the small town that idealizes her family, from her children, and even from her husband. None of them knows that Annalise Decker really is Deidre O'Reilly, relocated as a troubled teen in the federal witness protection program after testifying against a vicious criminal who killed her friend and beat her nearly to death.

Twenty years later, Annalise's secret past has come back to threaten her and everything she cares about. The man she helped put behind bars is free, and is coming to get his revenge. Annalise faces an impossible choice: stay, and put her family at risk, or leave them behind to protect them. She's always known that she didn't deserve this perfect life, but how can she give it up?

I struggle to find the words to convey the impact of this novel. The story is engrossing–I found myself racing through chapters, heart pounding, to find out what was going to happen to these people. But this is not some mere suspense novel. The danger threatening the Decker family is just the surface story, albeit a well written one that keeps the reader holding her breath and turning pages. But Warren goes deeper, looking behind the suspense plot to examine the secrets we all keep and the lies we all tell, and the way those secrets and lies, big and small, isolate us from each other. Because Annalise is not the only one in her family with secrets to hide. I came away from the story with a fresh awareness that while not all of our secrets and lies will get us literally killed, they still can kill our souls (and our relationships) little by little, over time.

Annalise and her family felt more like real people than just characters in a novel. I especially could relate to Annalise's struggles with self-doubt and a feeling that everything she has is so much more than she deserves. When all the secrets and lies start to come to light, the results are everything she's always feared–and more than she ever could have imagined. I cried as I read the last chapters.

You Don't Know Me is a brilliantly told story, and an important book, one that I want to see everybody read. So much so that I'm going to give away my copy (autographed to me by the author last summer at a writing conference) to a reader of this blog. See below for how to get a chance to win.

This is one of the best novels I read in 2012. A great read, certainly. A well written suspense story. But even more than that, it's that very rare commodity: a novel that could change your life. If you let it.

If you'd like a chance to receive a free copy of this book, please leave a comment below. Tell my why you'd like to receive it, and share something about your favorite book of 2012. I'll send my copy to one lucky commenter in January.

If you don't win the free copy (or if you can't wait until January to read it), you can pick up your own copy at Amazon. Click on the cover image above. To learn more about Susan May Warren and her other writing, visit her website.

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