Barnett, Dave. Same Time, Same Place. Sourcebooks, 2022. ISBN 9781728249506 336 pp. $16.99
Daisy and Nate are guards at a social history museum, on opposite shifts. Someone jokes that is would make more sense for Daisy to be on days and Nate on nights, but that’s not how it worked out and it’s for the best: Nate is a warm people person and Daisy is well, a bit curmudgeonly, as she follows an exact protocol each shift. Her reports end up in the circular file and the handoff efforts are met with b=gentle teasing.
Thanks to her observance, though, it’s Daisy who notices objects are disappearing–and returning!–from their displays and wants to not only document it, but solve the mystery. Nate gamely joins forces. In the meantime, their supervisor is much more concerned with a campaign to increase the museum’s visibility and bring in new revenue, while a coworker seems to be setting her cap for Nate just as Daisy’s interest is getting piqued.
Alternating chapters reveal character slowly. Daisy has a past trauma that is just alluded to, while Nate is more open about his abusive childhood: getting beaten up by his boxer father who didn’t seem to understand where the line between in the ring and at home was. It’s clear (to me!) as time passes that in addition to being traumatize, Daisy is on the spectrum. At home, she and her sister are caretakers for their mother, dying of cancer; Nate is caretaker to Ben, his 10-year-old son who is coping with his parent’s divorce and mother’s new boyfriend by hanging on a the street corner with a not-very-nice gang of older boys.
Same Time, Same Place looks at a glance like a romance or mystery novel; it contains elements of both, but ultimately is a more psychological and inspiration tale about flipping the narrative. Both characters suffer from the effect of events in their past that form their identity. Nate comments that “History is just the stories we tell ourselves about what happened to make us what we are. Sometimes the stories are true, sometimes they’re not.” The true denouement is not the museum’s solvency, the artifacts disappearance resolved, or even their attraction, but Daisy coming to the same realization that we don’t have to be our past, which ultimately is what allows their relationship to move forward.
Along the way, Barnett addresses family dynamics, racism (subtly) and modern life in Manchester (UK). Superbly written, he masters the voice of both genders. The clever cover design, a diagonal split of deep blue and sunny yellow, represent the many dualities of the novel: Nate and Daisy’s stories, work shifts, custodial responsibilities, traumatic backgrounds, and tandem voices.
I received an advance reader’s review copy of #SameTimeSamePlace from #NetGalley