Thursday, July 20, 2017

"Watch Me Disappear"

Janelle Brown is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, This Is Where We Live, and the newly released Watch Me Disappear.

Brown applied the Page 69 Test to Watch Me Disappear and reported the following:
Page 69 of Watch Me Disappear lands perfectly at the first page of chapter 4, which just happens to be the chapter where the story starts to take off.

Watch Me Disappear is the story of Olive and Jonathan Flanagan, who have been struggling to cope after Billie Flanagan – wife of Jonathan, mother to teenage Olive – disappears on a solo hiking trip in Desolation Wilderness. It’s been a year since Billie vanished from the trail and was declared dead (her cell phone and a hiking boot were found, but not her body); but without a death certificate or any kind of real closure, Jonathan and Olive still haven’t quite accepted that she’s gone.

In fact, Olive has started to experience strange hallucinations – she calls them “visions” – in which her mother seemingly insists that she’s still alive and wants Olive to look for her. Jonathan is (rightfully) worried that his daughter is emotionally unstable; and so, in chapter 4, he decides that it’s finally time to start getting rid of his wife’s belongings, so that they both can move forward with their lives:
Jonathan sits on the floor of his bedroom closet, sorting through sixteen years of his wife’s existence. Stacks of musty sweaters and grass-stained running shoes; socks missing their mates, holes at the heels; silk scarves received as Christmas gifts from Jonathan’s mother and rarely worn. Bowls full of unidentified buttons, a dusty stack of old Outside magazines, a box stuffed full of Olive’s preschool artwork.

A growing line of shopping bags stands sentry outside the closet, scrawled with Sharpie instructions: Save - Discard - Donate - Give to Olive.

He’s already tackled the vanity and the overflowing master bathroom drawers. Billie’s hairbrush, still woven with dark threads: Into the trash. The oxycodone she’d been prescribed after a biking accident, but had never taken: Put aside for recycling. Her jewelry box, filled with tangled chains: Save for Olive. Congealing bottles of expensive hand lotion, yellowing packets of holiday novelty tissues, four different kinds of sport sunscreen. Flotsam of little importance – just stuff -- and yet together it somehow adds up to a human being; each worn-out sandal or solitary earring a moment, a decision, a reflection of taste and opinion.
As Jonathan undergoes this emotional purging, however, he discovers some alarming things about his wife that he hadn’t expected, outright lies that make him wonder who his wife really was; and, even more disturbing, whether she’s even dead. All those memories, all those sentimental sandals and earrings – how much do they really tell him about Billie, after all? Were any of his memories real?

So this is a critical moment in the book! It introduces the theme that we sometimes see only what we want to see about the people we love; that we construct neat little family narratives and try to fit our loved ones inside, even if it’s all an illusion.
Learn more about the book and author at Janelle Brown's website.

The Page 69 Test: All We Ever Wanted Was Everything.

--Marshal Zeringue