I feel like I should start this book review by saying that I’m sort of acquaintances with the author, MariNaomi. And that it’s somewhat weird reading something so personal about someone I’ve seen in person only once and never had a full conversation with. Having said that, I Thought You Loved Me is a fucking amazing book, narratively and aesthetically, with strikingly illustrated pages the feature collage, assorted patterns and prints, and evocative drawings. I’d love it even if I didn’t know Mari. But as this book asks: Do you ever really know anyone?
I Thought You Loved Me follows the friendship trajectory of Mari and Jodie, who met in their freshman year of high school and stayed friends until their twenties, when suddenly the friends had a falling out that left Mari devastated and questioning their (in)ability to judge the character of the people in their life, including their new fiancé. For years, the ghost of this friendship haunted Mari, who began writing this book in 2016 to gain clarity and perhaps a sense of closure. Through journal entries, letters, photographs, and conversations with friends, Mari pieced together what happened and who they believed Jodie was. Yet the image is incomplete until Mari reconnects with Jodie two decades later and at last gets what they’re seeking. One of their reunions occurred when I saw Mari for the first time, in August 2018, at their book launch in San Francisco. The day before the launch, Mari and Jodie went hiking—something I learned from I Thought You Loved Me and found intriguing.
In fact, the entire book drew me in. It’s so relatable in that, I, too, had a close friend I met in high school and shared an unprecedented (for me) level of intimacy with, only for her to suddenly end the friendship with words that hurt, like Jodie does with Mari in I Thought You Loved Me. The end of these close friendships can sting much deeper than the end of romantic relationships. As Mari says: “While I anticipated that my romantic relationships might end, I didn’t think that someone who had gotten so close to me would ever go away.” That’s a different kind of heartbreak that Mari explores honestly and painstakingly in this book, which will have you reflecting on your own past friendships and how they shaped the person you are today. –Gina Murrell (Fieldmouse Press, 435 South Auburn St., Grass Valley, CA 95945, marinaomi.com)