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Lake Union Press
"When I'm Gone" is by Emily Bleeker.

"WHEN I'M GONE," by Emily Bleeker, Lake Union Press, $14.99, 355 pages (f)

Author Emily Bleeker's latest novel, "When I'm Gone," is both a love story and an intriguing mystery, written in page-turning, heart-wrenching prose.

After his wife Natalie's funeral, Luke is left feeling lost and struggling to raise their three children. When a letter shows up in Natalie's handwriting, he uses her words to fuel him onward while, at the same time, clinging to the past.

Luke soon finds out the letters are both a blessing and a curse when Natalie reveals secrets about her past and leads Luke down a mysterious path to learn things about his wife that change everything he thought he knew about their life together.

Bleeker does an excellent job of placing the reader inside an important moment in a family's life, and then uses characters and their memories, letters and fumbles to turn their situation into a sympathetic and well-paced story.

While some elements feel forced, such as the relationship between Natalie's best friend, Annie, and Luke, others, no matter how unbelievable, still feel credible through Bleeker's attention to detail and development of characters.

Luke's story is painful to read, and it's not easy to bear with him through revelations that rock his already shaken world. But his love for his children and his late wife move him forward and show his strength of character.

Natalie is a flawed character who will both be loved and hated but, in the end, her choices are explained and justified, so she can truly rest in peace.

The secondary characters, especially the ones who come in at the end and play a big part in the dramatic reveal, are special and endearing, bringing the story to a satisfying end.

"When I'm Gone" has mild profanity, no violence, and implied sexual content involving losing virginity.

"When I'm Gone" is a Whitney Award finalist in the general fiction category. The Whitney Awards honor novels by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Bleeker is a native of Chicago and her previous novel "Wreckage" was also a Whitney Award finalist.

Tara Creel is a Logan-native-turned-California-girl and mother of four boys. Her email is taracreel@gmail.com, and she blogs at taracreelbooks.wordpress.com.