Prather’s Pick: A page-turning novel
This week’s novel is set in motion by a family’s worst nightmare. A wife and mother has come up missing, and even though a year has passed, there are no clues as to her whereabouts—dead or alive.
“Watch Me Disappear” was written by Janelle Brown. The novel is published by Ballantine Books, 2017.
Billie Flanagan was on a hike in Desolation Wilderness, along the Pacific Coast Trail, but she never came back down to her Suburban, parked at the trail head. A pair of backpackers reported talking to her along the trail, but nobody else reported seeing her. Billie’s credit cards had not been used, and there was no phone activity. Her shattered cell phone was found at the bottom of a steep cascade of barren rock, and later on a single hiking boot was found partially submerged in a river bed. That’s all.
Authorities searched for nine days before giving up. Now Billie’s husband Jonathan and fifteen-year-old daughter have been left to deal with all of the “what if” questions. Billie had left her family once before, years ago, but she returned. She had reported needing some time to breathe. Jonathan had told her that it was fine to get some space but the lack of communication was not fine. Now she has gone off alone again, without telling her family why.
The emotional strain is bad enough, but Jonathan has discovered that their bank account is almost bottomed out. After working for eighteen years he quit work so no longer has a salary. He has sold a book he’s working on, a memoir about Billie, but the advance is gone, and money from its sales will just trickle in. Jonathan doesn’t have the money to pay tuition to Claremont Girls School that Olive attends. He has to obtain a death certificate to collect life insurance money.
Meantime, Olive’s emotional state is fragile. One day, while at school, she sees a vision of her mother. Billie is at the beach, wearing a white dress. It’s as if Olive is at the beach, too. Billie says she wants Olive to come find her. When Olive answers that they have been trying, Billie says it isn’t hard enough. When Olive reaches out to touch her mother’s hand she smacks her head into a wall at the school. Billie disappears.
Olive tells her father about the vision. She tries to get help from a psychic which doesn’t pan out. As the novel unfolds, Jonathan and Olive work on the mystery of Billie’s disappearance and discover secrets about Billie’s past. Readers find out more about Billie from chapters taken from Jonathan’s book. It’s a page-turning suspense novel, and the ending is unexpected, indeed.
I reviewed the paperback version of this novel. You can purchase it for about $9.99.
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This morning I was talking about this week’s column with my son Jody, who lives in Vernal. I told him that the idea for the column was to point out that it is all too…