Friday, August 25, 2017

Book Review: Watch Me Disappear

By Melissa Amster

Who you want people to be makes you blind to who they really are.

It’s been a year since Billie Flanagan—a Berkeley mom with an enviable life—went on a solo hike in Desolation Wilderness and vanished from the trail. Her body was never found, just a shattered cellphone and a solitary hiking boot. Her husband and teenage daughter have been coping with Billie’s death the best they can: Jonathan drinks as he works on a loving memoir about his marriage; Olive grows remote, from both her father and her friends at the all-girls school she attends.

But then Olive starts having strange visions of her mother, still alive. Jonathan worries about Olive’s emotional stability, until he starts unearthing secrets from Billie’s past that bring into question everything he thought he understood about his wife. Who was the woman he knew as Billie Flanagan?

Together, Olive and Jonathan embark on a quest for the truth—about Billie, but also about themselves, learning, in the process, about all the ways that love can distort what we choose to see. Janelle Brown’s insights into the dynamics of intimate relationships will make you question the stories you tell yourself about the people you love, while her nervy storytelling will keep you guessing until the very last page.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

The last line of the synopsis really sums up how I feel about Watch Me Disappear. I felt like I was completely in the dark the entire time, learning about everything only as it was revealed to Olive or Jonathan.

I'll admit that the story started off a bit slow, as we're learning about the characters and their motivations, but once it takes off, I couldn't put it down. Truths and secrets were revealed like little gifts throughout the story. You unwrap one gift and five more show up out of the blue.

Janelle Brown is great with writing descriptions and dialogue. Everything felt realistic. It may be summer here, but I could feel the chill of autumn as I turned the pages. I was able to visualize people and settings without feeling overwhelmed by details. There was just enough to work with. I felt transported to a place I've never been. One description that stands out is during a kiss, where someone's lips are described as feeling like soft serve ice cream on a hot day.

I enjoyed the element of surprise from this story and am glad I didn't know anything before the characters did. Even though the ending felt a bit anti-climactic for me, I still was guessing where things would go. I wouldn't categorize this novel as a thriller, but it definitely is a mystery and we're along for the ride.

I would give this novel 4.5 stars, even though Goodreads and Amazon don't let me do half-stars.

Of course, I was casting the movie version in my head...
Billie: Kim Director
Jonathan: Breckin Meyer
Olive: Rhiannon Leigh Wryn
Harmony: Marley Shelton
Natalie: Jamie Bloch

Thanks to Spiegel & Grau for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Janelle Brown:


Janine said...

Great review

susieqlaw said...

Sounds like a great book!

The Book Sage said...

If I hadn't already read this book, I would read it based on your review! We often agree. But you point out things that I definitely miss. That's one of many reasons why I look forward to your reviews.

Erica Robyn said...

I can't wait to give this one a read!