Thank You to Spiegel & Grau for proving me with an advance copy of Janelle Brown’s novel, Watch Me Disappear, in exchange for an honest review.
PLOT– Jonathan’s wife, Billie, disappeared on a hiking trip nearly a year ago. Her body was never recovered and he is now going through courts to have her death certificate issued, so that he can file an insurance claim. He’s running through his savings and falling behind in bills; money is an enormous stress. He’d love to drowned his troubles in alcohol, but he must pull it together for Olive, his teenage daughter. Olive’s grief has started manifesting itself in visions, where she believes that she’s not only seeing her mother, but that her mother is still alive and needing her help. Jonathan discovers information about Billie’s past that leads him to believe that she might not be the person that he thought he had married, and that perhaps, she really is still alive.
LIKE– I’m a fan of Janelle Brown’s writing and I was happy to be approved for her latest novel. I admire Brown’s ability to write emotionally rich scenarios and compelling characters. Watch Me Disappear has quite a few plot twists and reads like a mystery, but at its core, it’s character driven.
I felt most connected to Jonathan, who has the weight of the world on his shoulders and is really struggling to keep his life together. He’s not a perfect parent (who is?), but he sincerely tries to make Olive’s life better and the two have a beautiful connection. Watch Me Disappear is told primarily in close third-person that alternatively focuses on Jonathan, Billie, and Olive. However, there is a story device in which Jonathan and Billie’s relationship is remembered in first person, through a memoir that Jonathan is writing. I’m not sure that the memoir entries added much to the story. I felt that they slowed the pace. However, they also drew me closer to Jonathan, as I was able to hear his direct voice. I was more interested in Jonathan and Olive’s reaction to their predicament, than I was about the character of Billie.
DISLIKE– There was a confusing element early in the story when I thought that Watch Me Disappear might turn into a fantasy novel. It was the combination of Billie giving Olive books about telepathic kids and then having Olive experience her visions. I spent the first half of the novel expecting it to go an entirely different direction.
I really disliked the character of Harmony. Harmony is a long-time friend of Billie. She has the hots for Jonathan and now that her friend is dead, she is making her move on him. The scenario of a woman coming on to a grieving widow is bad enough, but the storyline with Harmony with regard to Billie’s mysterious past, becomes a muddled mess at the end of the story. I didn’t so much dislike the ending, but it was a onslaught of information and characters creating an overly complicated explanation.
RECOMMEND– Maybe. I didn’t absolutely love Watch Me Disappear, but I enjoyed it. It’s a fast read with unexpected twists; a solid blend of mystery and family drama. I like Brown’s writing and I’d recommend her other novels.