In this Amazon freebie, a middle-aged mother, still healing from a horrific injury two years ago, begins to doubt her memory and herself as her recollection of a young man’s disappearance doesn’t fit with the evidence presented by the police.
Lauren and her husband are in the salvage business. For a fee, they deconstruct decrepit barns, dilapidated houses, and other unwanted buildings. They then sell the beautiful furnishings and structures that survive. On one fateful day, Lauren climbed up the bell tower of an old church to disconnect the bell. A bat flew at her, she panicked, fell, shattered several bones and sustained severe brain damage. In the aftermath, she developed an addiction to Oxycontin. She’s mostly recovered now and off the Oxy, but she still has momentary lapses in her memory. The Oxy addiction is still a sore spot with her husband and children.
One day, as Lauren is driving downtown, she gets off at the wrong exit, nearly hitting a young man who’s walking in the road. She pulls over to get herself together and make sure he’s okay. The young man introduces himself as Bo Laughlin, and she realizes that he’s not all there. She offers to help him, and when he declines, she calls the police for a welfare check. The same day, he disappears. Lauren is the last person who saw him alive, and evidence mounts that she had a hand in his disappearance. Lauren doesn’t think that she had anything to do with it, can’t imagine that she did, but she knows that her memory is faulty, and she can’t deny the connection when she finds hidden packets of Oxy and Bo’s belongings turn up in her mud room.
It sounds really interesting, right? And I can totally get into a story with an unreliable narrator, if it’s done right. Unfortunately, this was not done right. As a narrator, Lauren oversteps unreliable and heads right into awful. She grossly misinterprets the intentions of her family and friends, to the point that it’s almost comical. For example, her sister expresses concern for Lauren’s well-being, and Lauren accuses her of trying to get her children taken away.
Lauren firmly stands by her memories, then folds at the slighest pressure from her husband. She doesn’t trust her husband, then believes every word he says. She accuses her husband of planning to kill himself or leave her, then says that she knows he would never do either. She’s a walking contradiction, and not in any way that seems believable given her medical condition.
We also get a very odd friendship blooming between Lauren and Annie, Bo’s stepsister, mostly because Lauren evidently reminds Annie of her late mother. I understand that Annie is looking for a mother’s comfort through the whole situation (Bo and her stepfather are the only family she has), but it seems so odd that she would turn to a virtual stranger, and the last one to see her brother alive – a suspect in his disappearance, at that.
I figured out what was happening early on in this book, and the amount of time that goes by, the amount of unexplained contradictions it takes, the actual confrontations Lauren faces before someone has to explain to her what’s happened – it’s all too much. The reveal at the end is not shocking, it’s boring. As I said, the idea is a good one. It’s just the execution that suffered.
I received a free copy of this book through Amazon Prime’s Kindle First program.
Final rating: ★★☆☆☆