Thursday, 29 May 2014

Spontaneous Review: Disappearing in Plain Sight

Disappearing in Plain Sight by Francis Guenette
Review by Anna Belfrage

I was recommended this book by a friend, who suggested I might find it more worthwhile to read this than watch my way through numerous movies when on one of my long flights. Boy, am I glad she did, because from the moment I started this, I was utterly captivated.

Ms. Guenette writes a rich prose, with vivid descriptions that transport you to hot summer days by Crater Lake, somewhere in British Columbia. Trees march up the mountains in multiple hues of green, gardens are filled to the brim with colours and scents, and everywhere is the lake, a splash of deep blue surrounded by forest-clad slopes. After reading this book, I am actually considering emigration – I could do with living in such splendid surroundings.

Add to Ms. Guenette’s descriptive talents a complex plotline and several well-developed characters, and you have a great novel. Reading Disappearing in Plain Sight is like listening to "Pathetique" by Beethoven: a distinct measured pace where the sheer brilliance of the recurring themes is showcased against an underlying melancholia.

To the isolated location of Crater Lake arrives Lisa-Marie, a confused and hurting teenager. So far in life, she has had no reason to trust any adults other than her grandmother, but due to circumstances her grandmother is not in a position to cope, and so Lisa-Marie is sent off to live with her aunt, ethereal Bethany. If Bethany is ethereal, her partner Beulah is anything but, all tough attitude and butch ways. Beulah is less than thrilled at having Lisa-Marie foisted upon them, and there is palpable tension between Beulah and Lisa-Marie.

Beulah and Bethany live on one of three neighbouring lots bordering Crater Lake. Closest to Bethany and Beulah is Izzy, who lives in what everyone calls “the main cabin” – an architectural gem that has me salivating. Izzy is a widow since some years back,  and despite being a counsellor at a nearby camp for disturbed young people, she has not fully come to grips with the loss of her husband, Caleb,  this due to a rather complex mix of guilt, grief and anger. Anger because Caleb trusted her implicitly, so certain that she would never leave him, grief because he is dead, leaving her bereft, guilt because she was considering sleeping with another man just at the moment of Caleb’s death.

On the other side of Izzy is Liam, Caleb’s best friend. Liam is seriously in love with Izzy, but Caleb’s ghost stands between them, making it difficult for Liam to express to Izzy what he feels. Besides, there’s the complication of golden boy Justin, a nineteen-year-old who helps Izzy in her garden. Izzy has counselled Justin at the camp and considers him one of her successes. She is also quite aware that the boy is infatuated by her, but instead of nipping this in the bud, she basks in his adoring looks – maybe because Justin reminds her of a young Caleb.

Eerily present throughout despite being dead is Caleb. This larger-than-life man was the pillar of everyone’s life in this little community, and his death has caused serious unbalance. Caleb is everywhere; he sits invisible in the garden house when Izzy serves up her famous salsa cruda (a cold tomato dish), he floats above the heads of the participants in the little book club, he is a constant in Izzy’s thoughts – and Liam’s, and Beulah’s. There’s a beautiful scene where Izzy finds the birthday card Caleb wrote to her some days before he died, thereby causing guilt to more or less tear her apart – again.

Lisa-Marie is immediately attracted to Justin. So far, her experiences with the other sex have been borderline abusive, but with Justin she feels safe, drawn to his sun-kissed good looks but even more to his kind eyes. And it takes her like ten nano-seconds to realise Justin is in love with Izzy, and just about as long to understand Izzy rather enjoys his adoration. Not that Justin has any hopes when it comes to him and Izzy, but his heart is too full of Izzy to allow much space for Lisa-Marie – and he is too nice a person to use Lisa-Marie as blatantly as Izzy uses him. The stage is set for a complex story that twists and turns towards the inevitable end, three short summer months that will leave their mark on every single one of the main characters.

In retrospect, very little “happens” in this novel – and yet I feel utterly wrung by the time I close it.  Ms. Guenette does an excellent job of portraying the emotional roller-coasters of each individual character without ever becoming judgemental. Instead, Ms. Guenette depicts people as most of us are: fallible and weak at times, filled with inner strength and resolve at others.

I will add Disappearing in Plain Sight to that rather restricted number of books I will never forget – and boy am I glad that there is a sequel, already on my Kindle!

About the author
Francis Guenette is a resident of British Columbia, and her love for the region she lives in shines through in her writing. She lives in an off-the-grid cabin which is powered with alternative energy sources and dedicates most of her time to writing with the panorama of the lake spread out before her window. Her location is remote enough for there to be daily bear visits – an ideal environment for a writer! Read more about Francis on her blog.

Disappearing in Plain Sight is available on Amazon US and Amazon UK.

Anna Belfrage is the author of five published books, all part of The Graham Saga. Set in the 17th century, the books tell the story of Matthew Graham and his time-travelling wife, Alex Lind. Anna can be found on Amazon, Twitter, Facebook and on her website.

If you would like Anna to review your book, please see our submissions tab above.

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