My fifth year as a Cannonballer comes to a close with Janelle Brown’s Watch Me Disappear which centers on Jonathan Flannigan and his daughter, Olive, as they approach the first anniversary of the disappearance and presumed death of matriarch Billie Flannigan. As Jonathan struggles to make ends meet without the second income of his wife and the delay in the insurance payout because Billie’s body was never recovered Olive begins to have visions that her mother is still alive and wanting to be found. I really liked this choice to start our story several months removed from Billie’s disappearance; the grief felt lived in and it gave more weight to Olive’s visions in some ways since they didn’t begin right after the death of her mother. Brown’s novel is part thriller, part mystery with a dose of the supernatural but it still feels very rooted in the reality of finding out that someone you love may not have been who you thought.
“Only someone fearful of his own ordinariness would buy, so unquestioningly, someone else’s extraordinariness. Maybe this is why they say love is blind. Who you want people to be makes you blind to who they really are.”
Olive is your typical self indulgent teenager who feels smothered by her father now that he is a single parent. He doesn’t take her visions seriously so she does her own investigating into the whereabouts of her mother including meeting with a “legitimate” psychic to try and hone her newfound abilities. Jonathan is kind of an idiot whose financial woes are largely his fault but put him in a precarious position regarding the possibility his wife may be alive after all since he is both awaiting the payout from her life insurance and writing a grief based memoir. He begins to dig a bit into the past of his wife after a friend reveals that Billie lied to her family numerous times the year prior to her death. He is a lot more successful in his search for the truth that Olive’s psychic route takes us which helps make the supernatural aspect of this novel easier to swallow.
My biggest complaint would be the character of Harmony, Billie’s oldest friend who tries to seduce Jonathan now that his wife is gone. Ostensibly Harmony is a link between Billie’s past and Billie’s (absent) present; she parcels out Billie’s secrets to Jonathan slowly and clearly has her own agenda regarding the Flannigan family. Mostly it felt like Brown was going for a Single White Female vibe and perhaps she had a bigger plan for Harmony but it never came to fruition.
The ending felt a bit “having your cake and eating it too” but overall this was an enjoyable weekend read and I’m happy to end the year on a positive note!