"Bring Me Back" by B.A. Paris
Whenever I hear of some missing woman, my first though is, logically, “have they checked out her husband/boyfriend/foot-fetish-having Tinder date.”
I don’t think jumping to the conclusion that the romantic lead in her life is culpable in the disappearance of a woman is an uncommon leap.
It is literally a lesson that is reinforced every time you turn on Dateline or 20/20 or 48-Hours.
Which I do…like… a lot.
All I need to hear is, “Martha, innocent sunday school teacher and mother of four disappears from her home one morning while her children were at school and her husband was at work.” And I think...
No. No it’s not. Martha’s going to be found in a shallow grave behind her husband’s office, traces of her blood are going to be found in his car and a review of the search history on the home computer is going to find that someone searched “how to kill your wife and get away with it” about three times a week for the last year.
And this belief that men are always — seriously always — to blame for the atrocities perpetrated against women translates to the page as well.
So, when I started Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris, I already had a sneaking suspicion as to who was going to be to blame.
But would Paris prove me wrong?
Well, not exactly…
This book opens with the protagonist, Finn’s, account of the night on which his live-in girlfriend went missing.
As Finn told it, the couple was vacationing in France. While traveling on a secluded highway at night, Finn decided to pull over and go to the bathroom at a remote rest area. He left his girlfriend, Layla, asleep in the front seat of the car. When he returned from the restroom, he found her missing. After a brief yet relatively exhaustive search, he left the rest area and went for help. But she was never seen again.
We are then, immediately, told that this version of events isn’t quite true. Which is wholly unsurprising as men are fucking liars.
While he is initially under suspicion — because, you know, he’s a guy — the police eventually decide that he had nothing to do with Layla’s disappearance.
Happy to be out from under a — totally fucking warranted — cloud of doubt, he settles down and resigns himself to living a solitary life.
That changes several years later when, while establishing a memorial for now-presumed-dead Layla, he meets Layla's sister, Ellen.
Though she's decidedly dissimilar to Layla, both physically and emotionally, Finn Finds himself drawn to Ellen in a way he can't explain.
Despite the fact that it’s, well, a little bit weird, Finn gives in to his desire to get to know Ellen better and, eventually, begins a romantic relationship with her.
Just when it seems like Finn is going to get this — totally fucking undeserved — happy ending, something alarming happens.
12 years after the disappearance of Layla, Finn begins to receive messages and find tokens that suggest that Layla is both very much alive and very eager to reignite her love affair with Finn.
Finn chooses not to tell Ellen about his suspicions that Layla is alive.
Honestly, this decision to deceive through omission is to be expected as we learned before that, when faced with the choice of telling the truth and potentially dealing with the consequences or spinning a yarn and avoiding them Finn tends to choose the easier, albeit less honest, route.
But now, his lies are piling on top of themselves and threatening to overtake him.
He is left, alone, wondering if Layla is really back, where she’s been, and why, after all this time, she’s returned.
Making matters worse, he has the sneaking suspicion that if he doesn’t figure it out soon, there could be serious consequences.
While Finn might have had a hard time seeing the twist coming, I didn’t.
A blessing — or, maybe, a curse — associated with reading voraciously is the development of an almost innate ability to spot a twist a mile away.
Sometimes, spotting a potential twist on the horizon can fill you with delight. If, that is, the twist is satisfying, believable and plot enhancing.
Other times, as the twist begins to become visible through the fog and haze, you hope against hope that you're eyes are deceiving you — that what you are pretty sure is going to happen isn't actually going to happen as, if it does, it's going to ruin everything.
Spotting the twist in this novel is more the latter of these two options.
Around the midway point in this novel, an idea was born I my head.
Maybe the author is going to do this, I thought.
But boy, I really, Really, REALLY fucking hope she doesn’t.
But she did.
And, wow, was it a misstep.
Now, before I describe my experience with this book through some extended metaphor — because that’s clearly the easiest way to explain it — let me preface this by explaining that I'm predisposed, in the spring, to think about boating — as we own a boat and I’m an occasional passenger.
Let's not get it twisted, though, my "duties" on the boat begin and end with slathering on some SPF 15, finding a sun-soaked spot of deck and settling myself in it with a book in one hand and a cocktail in the other.
Anyways, it is probably this seasonally induced tendency to think nautically that has me comparing my journey through this book to some ill-fated boat trip that starts out as a three-hour tour but ends up resulting in years trapped on an island with an cast of characters that is as colorful as it is unlikely.
This novel started like a sailboat on a decidingly windy day, cutting through the water, a truly majestic sight to behold. I was enjoying the ride. I was enthusiastic about the process. And I was optimistic about the future.
But, near the middle of the novel, the winds shifted. The boat slowed... and meandered. I sat. Waiting. Beginning, without the relief offered by a breeze, to roast under the baking sun. I was anxious to get going again. I was hopeful that that slow-down was temporary.
Unfortunately, however, the sails never filled again with wind. The boat never picked up speed again.
And, were it to end like this, I could handle it. Bobbing in the water, bored but safe. But then it got worse. The engines died and the boat, unsteerable at that point, crashed violently on the rocky shore, proving a tragic ending which was made all the more disappointing in contrast with the strength of the voyage’s start.
Now, despite the fact that I could spoiler alert the hell out of this shit and tell you what this woefully underwhelming twist is, I'm not going to. Because, honestly, the details of the twist aren’t what's most important. What matters most is that it was unsatisfying, unbelievable and, though it pains me to say, book ruining.
Unfortunately, the fact that my expectations for this book were so high likely made my plummet to the ground all the more jarring and painful. #ImStillNursingMyWounds
Unlike the nesting doll, which played such a prominent role in this book, the novel itself was entirely without layers.
It was simple.
It was one-note.
It was forgettable.
Though it legitimately pains me to do so, I have to give this book 2 out of 5 cocktails.
My disappointment in this book has me anxious to start another… like, right away. Want to see what I select? Follow me, here.
I love a twist… when it’s a good one. Tell me about your favorite twisty books. What novel contained a sublimely satisfying twist? Let me know about it in the comments, below, so I can add it to my TBR.