Review: Watch Me Disappear

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**5 Solid Goodreads Stars**

Maybe this is why they say love is blind: Who you want people to be makes you blind to who they really are.

…perhaps we truly had the ability to write our own life stories, to change the endings if we wanted to.

I received Janelle Brown’s Watch Me Disappear as a Kindle advanced reader copy via NetGalley and courtesy of Random House (thank you so very much!). Random House (thank you, Jess Bonet!) sent me some fantastic ecards below to go along with the review, which really capture the aura and feeling of the book.

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Watch Me Disappear opens with a picture perfect family living in a wealthy suburb of Berkeley, California. There’s Billie, the “perfect” mom who makes Pinterest worthy organic snacks and meals; there’s Jonathan, the adoring husband, doting father, and hard-working tech writer; and finally there’s Olive, the out-to-save-the-entire planet loving daughter who attends an elite all-girls prep school. To an outsider, they seem like the perfect family with perfect lives and a perfect house in one of the nation’s most expensive communities.

Billie, an adventurous soul by nature, sets out on our own for a weekend hike in the mountains. An experienced hiker and wilderness expert, her husband and daughter don’t think twice about Billie’s plan. Plus, things have been a bit strained at home; Olive has been seeking privacy and venturing out in the world on her own as a teenager, much to the dismay of Billie. Jonathan has been buried under his work, something he relishes in as the caretaker and primary breadwinner of the family. Billie feels as though her roles as a mother and wife are diminishing, so this trip is her way of forging an identity that isn’t simply defined by her relationship to the family unit.

When Billie fails to come back home after her hiking trip and is declared a missing person, Olive and Jonathan are left with nothing but endless pain and uncertainty. All signs point towards a violent ending: Billie’s hiking boot found in the stream; Billie’s shattered cell phone in a ravine; the family Subaru abandoned at the trailhead. How can Olive and Jonathan move on with no body, no finality?

Both father and daughter refuse to move on. Their quest to find answers about Billie’s disappearance only results in more unanswered questions. We come to find that Billie had several lifetimes worth of skeletons in her closet, including past and recent affairs, mysterious, unexplained trips in and out of California, numerous aliases, and even former crimes. As Jonathan and Olive dig through the detritus of Billie’s life, they struggle to reconcile the beautiful, caring mom and wife they knew with the freewheeling Billie of the past. As Brown so beautifully describes, “Billie’s identity keeps shimmering and changing…like a fish slipping through the sea.” Is the Billie they knew still alive? Was she running from someone or something? Did nature swallow her whole in an accident? Or, worse, did Billie decide to abandon her family given her insatiable cravings for adventure and independence, both of which were denied to her while growing up in a strict, abusive pastor’s home?

This book has some fabulous twists and turns, and unlike many thrillers, has an incredibly satisfying ending that did not leave any loose ends. That said, I would absolutely pick up a sequel to this book in a heartbeat!

Thank you again to Janelle Brown, Random House, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book!

For those of you interested in purchasing the book (or checking it out at your local public library), check out the book trailer.

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