The sudden loss of a family member is a tragedy difficult for anyone to bear. But what if your loved one wasn’t really gone? What if, despite all other signs of death, a tenuous connection persisted? Insane as the situation would seem, if a text came from your deceased partner in the middle of the night, would you answer? Meg receives one the night of the funeral for her husband Ben containing two words that shake her to her core: “I’m here.”

Meg and Ben were college sweethearts that married not long after graduation. Their kids Annie and Willie completed their tight-knit family and blissfully normal life in the suburbs. Meg befriends another mother in the neighborhood, Elise, and the families become inseparable. When Ben suffers a sudden and fatal heart attack on the plane for one of his business trips, both families are devastated. While Meg is still reeling from the loss of her soulmate, she receives the equally ominous and hopeful text from her deceased husband. I’m here. With this surreal start, Christy Chafe begins an electric tale of grief, mystery and love in her debut novel, I’m Here.

Meg can’t explain how she feels about the text messages she starts to receive regularly from Ben. Ben’s impersonator. She chides herself for deluding herself to believe she’s actually still communicating with her husband. Yet, she can’t help but respond to the vague yet reassuring texts from his number.

I love you. Don’t worry baby. I miss you so much. We’ll figure it all out. Ben never addresses direct questions like “where are you” and “what is happening?” But, Meg thinks of Ben’s texts as “the encouragement she need[s] to walk into the world.” Envisioning Ben alive is far more comforting than accepting he is lost forever, or trying to piece together who in the world would be sending her these messages.

Meg isn’t the only one receiving messages from the late Ben though. Their daughter Annie receives an email from her father out of the blue a couple of weeks after the funeral, a message similar in nature to the ones Meg has been exchanging. Most alarmingly, Willie, in elementary school, has been receiving messages on his iPod for as long as Meg has been receiving them. What is going on? A miracle emerging from the grave or cruel emotional manipulation?

While the messages from Ben are no doubt the engrossing mysterious element to the story, in its essence I’m Here reveals one family’s intimate journey through grief and their process of healing. When acceptance of death is held at bay by doubt and flashes of surreal hope, the whole process of moving forward is held in a strange limbo. As secrets come to light and the truth unfolds, the family must adjust to fresh complications in their already unstable circumstances.

Chafe balances a fantastical situation with relatable characters that will make you ache with each obstacle thrown in this family’s path. The many different POVs offered in the story allow you to get inside many of the character’s heads, drawing you closer with key insights and revelations. Though fictional, I’m Here feels like a deeply personal story, one that will make you look inward and reflect on your own relationships. Taking you back to your own losses, in Meg’s place you can’t help but wonder what it would be like to re-establish a connection with someone you miss dearly, and if given the chance, however brief, what you would say.

I’m Here is available for purchase.

ABOUT CHRISTY CHAFE:

Christy holds a BS in Creative Writing from Miami University and an MA in English from Xavier University, and is very grateful for the freedom of her writing schedule. In her real life, she is a full-time mom of three wonderful kids, and has a 14-pound, white, furry best friend named Coach.She has been married for twenty-six years to her college crush (#miamimerger #loveandhonor). For more on Christy, visit her website.