To Never Know is a coming-of-age story about love, loss, and life’s unpredictable opportunities.
Steven Lewis is a smart, reserved high school senior, unlucky with girls. He senses a mutual attraction with new classmate Kelly Brennan, but lacks the courage to ask her out. Upon graduation, they go their separate ways. Steven eventually leaves New York and moves to Florida but soon returns to the area, positioning himself in a low-paying neighborhood pharmacy job, forever hoping to run into Kelly. A chance meeting with Kelly’s mother, Emily, compounded by unexpected revelations, ultimately sets Steven on a surprising emotional path to navigate his own uncertain future.
Duffy presents a simple, yet well thought-out and developed plot line. By placing the story within the timeframe of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he not only skillfully incorporates stark realities of the day, but thematically this context seems a pointed reflection of the unsettling turmoil surrounding the central protagonists.
While the fictional narrative moves at a slow, yet steady pace, there are moments that seem weighted by excessive dialogue that can sound wooden and unnecessary. Consider an early conversation between Steven and Nancy, a woman he meets via a chatline dating service:
“ ‘I write short stories on the side,’ she told him.
“ ‘That is so wonderful. I love to write.’
“ ‘Maybe I’ll read one to you sometime.’
“ ‘I’d love to. It sounds fun.’
“ ‘Why don’t you read a paragraph or two.’
“ ‘Don’t mind if I do.’”
Additionally, Steven often resorts to cliched comments that do little to enhance the dialogue (“[it’s] never too late to live life the way you want”).
Still, for those who can overlook issues with the dialogue, Duffy provides a heartfelt and largely provocative read. Those drawn to solid narratives enhanced by emotionally wrought characters, particularly those who look for hope even under the most dire circumstances, should find rewards in the author’s fifth novel.
Also available as an ebook.