Book Review: Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis / @zaralibrary

bk - watch me disappear


Category: General Adult Fiction
Author: Janelle Brown
Format: Advanced Reading Copy (ARC), 368 pages
Publisher: Spiegal & Grau
ISBN: 9-780-8129-8946-5
Pub Date: July 11, 2017


Summary from Publisher:

It’s been a year since Billie Flanagan—a beautiful, charismatic Berkeley mom with an enviable life—went on a solo hike in Desolation Wilderness and vanished from the trail. No body—only a hiking boot—has ever been found. Billie’s husband and teenage daughter cope with her death the best they can: Jonathan drinks, Olive grows remote.

But then Olive starts having waking dreams—or are they hallucinations?—that her mother is 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 knew about his wife. 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.

  • From Goodreads

Book Review:

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown is an engrossing novel driven by its characters’ neuroses and its surprising, multi-layered plot, which not only dominate the story, but seduce its readers to delve into the book full force with intrigue and expectation.

The characters of the book are richly well-written, endorsing a realism and empathy that seems effortless on behalf of the author as seen not only through the dialogue in the novel, but through the honest feelings and thoughts of her characters, who are easily relatable.

Jonathan Flanagan, a dedicated husband and father takes his role seriously as provider for his family. But, the disappearance of his wife, Billie, after a hiking trip over a weekend, reels him into a year-long period in which grief not only alienates him from his teenage daughter, Olive, of whom he is now solely responsible for, but also into a state where his fatherhood, as well as his marriage are put into question.

Olive, in turn, is not only burdened with the awkwardness of being a teenager in high school, but being the teenager known for the one whose mother has gone missing. Not only does she suffer the loss of a mother of whom she was close, but suffers for what is believed to be hallucinations of her—alive, somewhere—but, where?

As the anniversary of the loss of Billie nears, and the process of her death certificate comes into its final stages, both husband and daughter go on separate journeys in their investigation of what happened to Billie, uncovering instead the complication of a woman they thought they knew and the histories of her past that resurface in the wake of her absence.

The book is rich in how it portrays the truth of its characters from Jonathan’s feelings of insecurity and sexual monotony in a loving, but long, loyal marriage; to Olive’s idolatry of her mother’s memory and her subliminal wish to emanate her independence and thrill-seeking personality; to Harmony’s nurturing kindness and natural rivalry with her best friend as proxy partner and hope-to-be wife to a grieving family.

The dialogue is real enough to convince readers of the characters’ relatability to empathize with them—or hate them—in lieu of their failings. And the narrative is readable, moving the book along at a comfortable pace that doesn’t make the book feel heavy, boring, or long. And once readers believe they realize the possible outcomes of the plot, the plot is intelligent and coy enough to change into a different direction.

Watch Me Disappear is a compelling story of navigating between love and loss, selflessness and independence, the fluidity of personality—and that narrative can easily shape an identity as much as it can reveal it—or keep it hidden.

Which begs the question: Can anyone really ever know anyone else?



Characters: 4 stars
Plot: 4.5 stars
Language/Narrative: 3.5 stars
Dialogue: 4 stars
Pacing: 4.5 stars
Cover Design: 4 stars


Zara’s Rating

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A special thanks to Penguin Random House Canada on behalf of Spiegel & Grau for providing me with an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) of the book, Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown in exchange for an honest and timely review.


About the Author:

author - janelle brown

Janelle Brown is the author of All We Ever Wanted Was Everything and This Is Where We Live. An essayist and journalist, her writing has appeared in Vogue, The New York Times, Elle, Wired, Self, Los Angeles Times, Salon, and numerous other publications. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their two children.

  • From novel


You can connect with Janelle Brown on her official website.



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