Review: We Now Return to Regular Life by Martin Wilson

We Now Return to Regular Life by Martin Wilson

Series: No

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary

Release Date: August 1, 2017

Format: Hardcover

Source: Library Loan

Find it here: GoodReads | Amazon

A ripped-from-the-headlines novel that explores the power of being an ally—and a friend—when a kidnapped boy returns to his hometown.

Sam Walsh had been missing for three years. His older sister, Beth, thought he was dead. His childhood friend Josh thought it was all his fault. They were the last two people to see him alive.

Until now. Because Sam has been found, and he’s coming home. Beth desperately wants to understand what happened to her brother, but her family refuses to talk about it—even though Sam is clearly still affected by the abuse he faced at the hands of his captor.

And as Sam starts to confide in Josh about his past, Josh can’t admit the truths he’s hidden deep within himself: that he’s gay, and developing feelings for Sam. And, even bigger: that he never told the police everything he saw the day Sam disappeared.

As Beth and Josh struggle with their own issues, their friends and neighbors slowly turn on Sam, until one night when everything explodes. Beth can’t live in silence. Josh can’t live with his secrets. And Sam can’t continue on until the whole truth of what happened to him is out in the open.

For fans of thought-provoking stories like The Face on the Milk Carton, this is a book about learning to be an ally—even when the community around you doesn’t want you to be.

We Now Return to Regular Life is one of those books that didn’t have a lot of feel-good moments. In fact, it was often difficult to read, caused many tears, and generally hurt my heart. But it was also incredibly impactful and one of the better books I’ve read this year.

Sam Walsh (a nod to Adam Walsh?) was abducted three years ago at the age of eleven. Now Sam has been found… alive… and is back at home. The media swarms, there’s a televised interview, and everyone asks, “How is Sam?” But this isn’t completely Sam’s story. It’s Beth’s story, Sam’s older sister. And it’s Josh’s story, Sam’s childhood friend.

We Now Return to Regular Life is narrated from the points of view of Beth and Josh. For the first half of the book I struggled as to whether that was working for me or not. Then I realized that 1) I probably wouldn’t be able to handle the story from Sam’s point of view and 2) the story being told this way drove home the point that Sam’s kidnapping, and the aftermath, had far-reaching effects beyond his own experience.

I turn and look at him and he’s smiling. But something about it is weird. It’s not at all how he used to smile. It hits me that he’s only telling her what she wants to hear. What we all want to hear. That he’s just fine and dandy.

Sam is lying to all of us.

Beth imagined Sam was dead, largely because it was easier than imagining what he might be going through otherwise. The knowledge that Sam is alive, and envisioning what he may have endured, is torturing Beth. It’s obvious Sam is changed. It’s obvious he needs to talk. But Beth finds herself pulling away – unable to bear whatever Sam might share. She views school as her escape, the place where things still feel normal. But that changes quickly when she becomes “the girl with the kidnapped brother” and she pulls away from friends as well, anything to avoid the feelings that are pulling her under.

Josh is riddled with guilt and feels responsible for Sam’s kidnapping. There’s information about that day that he never shared with anyone – not his parent’s, not the police, no one. Suddenly Sam is back and obviously in need of a friend. When Josh’s friends refuse to have anything to do with Sam, he has to decide between doing what’s easy and what’s right.

Get on with our lives. I want to laugh, or scream, something. Because it’s like Mom thinks our lives are like some TV show that got interrupted, like when something big happens and the news cuts in and once they’re done the announcer says, “We now return to regular programming.”

Sam was gone and now he’s back. We now return to regular life.

Like I mentioned previously, this wasn’t a happy-go-lucky tale and didn’t have a lot of feel-good moments. But what it did have was complex characters who were so flawed and human and empathetic. Wilson masterfully crafted a family going through what no family should ever have to – the horror of the abduction, the joy of the reunion, and the slow realization that life does not magically return to normal. Their struggle to come to terms with what happened and create a new normal was heart wrenching. Sam’s desperate need to talk about what happened was in direct conflict with those closest to him who couldn’t bear to hear it. Watching as Sam was haunted by his experience but was unwilling to burden his family with his pain absolutely broke my heart.

We Now Return to Regular Life isn’t always an easy read but it is an unforgettable read. Beautifully written and packed with emotion, it is a story of survival, of family, of friendship, of redemption and of love. I cannot recommend this one highly enough.

4.5/5 STARS


  1. I'm SO glad you took the time to read this one. I absolutely loved it as well, and I like seeing other reviews. :)


  2. anything that has to do with child adoptions is like the stuffing of my worse nightmares!!! BUT I'm a sucker for this kinda of books as you may noticed. What am I?? a masochist??? beautifully written, emotional, complex characters... I AM SO READING IT!!! Thanks for the great review Tanya!

    1. I actually think this one is right up your alley and that you'll love it. Wilson makes it impossible not to feel for these characters. I ached for them, I wanted to shake them, I wanted to hug them... just so emotional!

    2. I meant "abductions"!!! LOL! Just making sure I had read all just posts and saw my mistake LOL omg I LOVE child ADOPTIONS! This is what happens when you don't have enough time to reread your comments LOL Thank you for reaffirming I should read it! :)

    3. "I meant "abductions"!!! LOL! Just making sure I had read all just posts and saw my mistake LOL omg I LOVE child ADOPTIONS! This is what happens when you don't have enough time to reread your comments LOL"

      LOL No worries. I knew what you meant. You notice how I just rolled with it. Haha.

  3. I think this would be much too painful for me, but it sounds like the writer has done a terrific job of conveying the challenges faced by victims, families, and friends when (if) the victim does come home. Because of course, things can't go back to normal, no matter how much everyone may want them to. Excellent review; if this were my kind of book I would definitely want to read it.

    1. I'm so glad I read it, but it was definitely a tough read emotionally.

  4. I have read two other books with similar premises (Aftermath by Clara Kensie and Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu), both left me in puddles of tears. Kensie's book was only from the POV of the survivor. Mathieu's was from the POVs of one of the survivors and the other survivor's sister. I thought the outside POV gave the story an extra layer and added to the depth of the pain. It sounds like Wilson did that in this book by excluding the survivor's POV, and it sounds like it was successful from your review. I have to check this one out.

    1. For the longest time I kept struggling with whether the choice of POV was working for me. But when I stopped to consider I realized that I wasn't sure I could handle a first person POV with this kind of story. It would kill me. As it was, seeing Sam through someone else's eyes and getting snippets of his story was ripping me to shreds. So emotional and yet I'm so glad I read it.