Dying was not the worst part. It was was what came after dying.
They Called Me Wyatt
Author: Natasha Tynes
Publication Date: 11 June 2019
Genre: Adult, Mystery/Thriller – has sci-fi elements
Publisher: Rare Bird Books
Thank you to Natasha Tynes for providing a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Jordanian student Siwar Salaiha is murdered on her birthday in College Park,
Maryland, her consciousness survives, finding refuge in the body of a Seattle
baby boy. Stuck in this speech delayed three-year old body, Siwar tries but
fails to communicate with Wyatt’s parents, instead she focuses on solving the
mystery behind her murder. Eventually, her consciousness goes into a dormant
state after Wyatt undergoes a major medical procedure.
Fast-forward twenty-two years. Wyatt is a well-adjusted young man with an affinity towards the Middle East and a fear of heights. While working on his graduate degree in Middle Eastern studies, Wyatt learns about Siwar’s death, which occurred twenty-five years ago. For reasons he can’t explain, he grows obsessed with Siwar and spends months investigating her death, which police at the time erroneously ruled as suicide. His investigation forces him to open a door he has kept shut all his life, a spiritual connection to an unknown entity that he frequently refused to acknowledge. His leads take him to Amman, Jordan where after talking to her friends and family members and through his special connection with the deceased, he discovers a clue that unravels the mystery of her death. Will Siwar get justice after all?
This novel is broken into two parts. The first part of the story mainly focuses on Siwar’s narrative. Siwar plunged to her death on her 25th birthday after being pushed off a building. Unfortunately for her, her consciousness survives but relocates itself into a speech delayed three-year-old boy named Wyatt. Siwar still has the thought processes of a 25-year-old woman but are ultimately useless in a toddler’s body that is uncapable of responding in the manner she wants. I definitely found it entertaining to watch a 25-year-old Siwar get so utterly frustrated trying to communicate with Wyatt’s parents Krista and Noah. If my life went from independence and pursuing my dream career to watching one hour of either Sesame Street or Barney every day, I’d be fussing and cussing just as much as Siwar.
I think Natasha did a wonderful job with the progression of the flashbacks that start to piece together Siwar’s story starting from her preteen years in Jordan. Siwar was always fiercely independent and set on pushing back against the archaic and conservative expectations of females in Jordanian society. As we see more of Siwar’s background, I felt myself empathasizing with her story. I could not blame her for wanting to get away from so many rules that dictated her existence just because she was a female.
However, as the plot continues during part one, we start to get glimpses of just how manipulative Siwar is. When she tries to communicate to Wyatt’s parents, Krista and Noah, and she doesn’t get the response she wants, she has full blown temper tantrums. Since she’s an adult trapped inside of a child with a mission to find out how she was murdered, she doesn’t particularly care if she hurts their feelings. While I understood her frustration, you could see that Wyatt’s behavioral issues were also tearing apart Krista and Noah’s already fragile marriage.
Book one ends with Wyatt going in for a procedure to correct his urinary tract, so he is sedated for the operation, which means both Siwar and Wyatt are silenced. Turn the page to book two, and now we have a 25-year-old Wyatt and wondering if Siwar is alive or dead (well passed on would probably be more appropriate since she technically is dead).
Surprise – Siwar is still with Wyatt, but now she’s no longer in control of Wyatt’s consciousness. She’s the dull whispers in the background that only become vivid when Wyatt is either inebriated or under the influence of Valium. Because Siwar can still peer into Wyatt’s consciousness, he has become obsessed with solving her cold case but has no clue why this need is consuming him.
Book two was a bit slower for me. I plowed through book one because I was fascinating in learning Siwar’s story through her own memories that are implanted in Wyatt. I also have a strong preference for Siwar’s narrative over Wyatt’s because I found her independent attitude refreshing while not being obtrusive. During book two, I grew more and more frustrated with Wyatt repeatedly wasting away in a drunken or medicinal stupor just so we could get back to Siwar and her truth. In hindsight, I realize that like Siwar, I didn’t necessarily care about Wyatt and the consequences associated with seeking justice for Siwar because the plot wasn’t about Wyatt. Right? Or was it?
Overall, the is a great debut novel from Natasha Tynes. She does a wonderful job of assessing America from an outsider’s perspective while also giving a glimpse into Jordanian society, which most Americans probably are not privy to. The plot has a great pace. There are definitely interesting twists and turns as we learn more about the relationships that Siwar had as well as the man Wyatt has grown to become. The ending definitely took me by surprise.
Rating: 4 stars