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.
I finished this book last week. I needed a day to process it all and here I am, a week later, still obsessed with this twitchy tale. I can’t stop thinking about it, and have already debated re-reading it. It’s THAT good.
This story follows Olive and Jonathan, dealing with life about a year after Billie’s disappearance. Olive is having visions of her mother and Jonathan is trying to make sense of everything. His marriage, his wife’s past, who his wife, and her friends, might really be, and then worrying about his daughter, Olive, on top of that. One thing that really struck me with this book was how the characters, even if they did something unscrupulous, managed to keep you on their side.
You want to hate Jonathan as he starts having doubts over his presumed dead wife. You find yourself angry at him for being naive, but then you also feel heartbreaking compassion for him. Olive is trying to find herself. Others see things in her that she herself has yet to discover. You find yourself annoyed at her chasing these visions, but at the same time, you can’t blame her for running headfirst into this mystery.
This is the first book that I can say I actually popped in a post-it note. There were so many pieces that I wanted to remember and hold onto myself.
Billie’s character is exceptional. I don’t know if I mean that in a good or bad way yet. Her character is one that has stayed with me and I can say I’m still thinking about her. When we start to get a deeper look at her life, it makes you question how you feel about her. Is she cruel or was she doing the best she could? Should we love her, hate her?
Anyone who loves a good thriller will love this book. Moreover, anyone who enjoys a good mystery, while also on a search for self-discovery, would adore this novel. I really cannot say enough amazing things about this story.