Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book in return for an honest review.
Billie Flanagan disappears while on a solo mountain hike, leaving behind only a hiking boot. Her husband, Jonathan, and their teen-age daughter, Olive, are left to pick up the pieces of their lives after Billie’s disappearance. The story is written in third person perspective, alternating between Jonathan and Olive, and begins about a year after Billie’s disappearance. Interspersed throughout the book are chapters of the book Jonathan is writing about their lives together and the loss of the love of his life. But the search for the truth about Billie leads them in different directions, and there are twists and turns as the secrets they unearth only bring forth more questions. Who was the woman they lived with for all those years? How well can we really know someone? Is what we see in each other just a reflection of what we most want to see? Do we sometimes feel so ordinary that we buy, unquestioningly, someone else’s extraordinariness?
The character development in this book is complex, well-written and completely engages the reader. For their sakes, you really want to know what happened to Billie. You want Jonathan and Olive to have answers to help them straighten out their lives. There is enough mystery and twists thrown in that you remain engaged to the end. Along the way, you know nothing more than the characters do at that moment.
One word in this book pretty much sums up the whole of the story: weltschmerz. It’s introduced fairly early in the book, and was a new word for me. The definition is world weariness felt from a perceived mismatch between the ideal image of how the world should be with how it really is. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but that is the plot of the book and you will be captivated to the end. This isn’t a heart-pounding thriller, but it is a psychological character study that will draw you in completely. I’m going to seek out Brown’s other books and I recommend this one highly.