Book Review: Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

Watch Me Disappear

My rating: 3 of 5 stars 3 Stars

This book joins the new breed of books in Vanishing Moms genre, which includes Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple, and Leave Me by Gayle Forman.

Disappear 1

Book Synopsis [Excerpt], from the author’s website:

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

It’s been a year since Billie Flanagan—a beautiful, charismatic Berkeley mom with an enviable life—went on a solo hike and vanished from the trail. No body, only a hiking boot, was ever found.

But then Olive starts having waking dreams—or are they hallucinations?—that her mother is still alive. Together, Olive and Jonathan embark on a quest for the truth—about Billie, their family, and the stories we tell ourselves about the people we love.

Disappear 2

One year later, Olive and Jonathan are trying to move on in their lives. Jonathan is in the midst of writing a book about his life with Billie, which is reflective and therapeutic for him. We get to know Billie through backstories and Jonathan’s writing. Olive is very convinced that Billie is alive due to her visions, and begins the quest to find her.

Jonathan begins to uncover details about Billie from friends, family, and the things that she left behind. He starts to piece together a very different person than what he knew about his wife, including secrets from Billie’s past that blow his mind and has him doubt that Billie ever loved him.

All of the central characters in this novel are what I describe as uneasy, lost, unhappy, sad, wistful, and free spirited. Each made bad decisions. I have a hard time liking a book when I dislike all of the characters.

That said, the story is very captivating and beautifully written. There were many times that I found myself nodding in agreement because of phrases that I found to be very insightful or where I agreed wholeheartedly on the character’s thought.

And the book takes place mostly in Berkeley, California which I’m very fond of.

This book is a mystery/thriller, but the pace is sluggish and the book is a slow burner for about 90% of the entire book. I was waiting for a big reveal or a surprise twist or a satisfying ending but unfortunately the thing that I was hoping would happen didn’t happen. The ending was a letdown for me.

Watch Me Disappear is a darker, less humorous version of Where’d You Go Bernadette. The underlying theme is a good one though – you only know a person through what they reveal about themselves; and, things are always more complicated than they appear. This book will have you thinking about this for a while after you’re done reading it.

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