Astrid Sees All

book cover

By Natalie Standiford

** Publication Date 6 April 2021 **

4.5 stars

Trauma can do funny things to our brains. Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re off kilter because we can’t see our behavior. Others can. Others will try to protect us, help us or exploit those crazy days post-trauma. 

Phoebe has graduated from college and moved to NYC. She is drawn to the magic of the 1980s in New York – the decadence, the social life, the madness of those crazy days of the 1980s. One of her reasons for heading to the city is her friend Carmen. She is drawn to Carmen ever since she heard Carmen read a story she wrote. Phoebe wants to be able to experience the things Carmen writes about. Phoebe wants to be Carmen.

But when Phoebe’s father is dying, and she heads home to Baltimore to spend the final days with her father, sister and mother, Phoebe is itching to get back to New York. Her mother, however, thinks Phoebe is not quite right and wants her to stay home. Phoebe sees this as hovering and over-protection, her mother, not so much. Plus Phoebe has some vendettas to settle in New York and a fortune telling job at a New York hotspot on New Year’s Eve. So against her family’s better judgement, she heads back to Carmen, and the excess of her life there.

While I can’t compare this to the other books it has been compared to, I can say, having lived through the 1980s (though on the opposite coast) that it is pretty spot on with its description of the hedonism and excess of the times, even for those barely scraping by. I enjoyed watching the transition of Phoebe from bookstore worker to fortune teller and everything else Astrid was for her. Astrid Sees All is a thoughtful look at trauma and how our brains can escape reality. I was really excited to be chosen to read this novel, and I was not disappointed.There is loss and sadness in this novel, but also growth and change. I enjoyed this read. Not an easy one, but a good one nonetheless.

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