Review | The Breakdown | B.A. Paris
Publication Date: July 18th, 2017
Page Count: 336
First Sentence: "The thunder starts as we're saying goodbye, leaving each other for the summer holidays ahead."
Book Description: If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?
Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.
But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.
The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.
Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…
My thoughts: The book opens up with Cass leaving a work function. She's driving home in a Mini Cooper in the pouring rain, and decided to take a short cut through the woods near her house. She seems a car that's broken down and pulls over to see if they need any help. The car doesn't signal toward her, and she doesn't want to get out in the storm so she rushes home. She means to call the police and let them know that someone has broken down, but she gets distracted and forgets. She may well have forgotten about it at all, except she finds out the next day that the person in the car had been murdered.
I had a hard time in the beginning because she kept beating herself up for not pulling over. She wonders if she could have saved the woman had she stopped. Her husband told her not to take the woods shortcut when she was coming home, and she didn't listen. She never tells him that she took the shortcut, and continues to torture herself about the situation. I had to reframe my thinking. I see nothing wrong at all with her not stopping for the broken down car. I might have called the police when I could, but I still wouldn't stop as a woman on my own. That said, I live in a big city and there's very little, outside of police lights, that would make me stop for anyone. I also took issue with the fact that she NEVER told her husband about the real reason she's taking the murder so to heart. Once I reframed my thinking and decided that this is a story about someone who's reacting differently than I would and thats okay, I started to enjoy it more. I am working on enjoying unreliable narrators more (but she still was pretty grating). I found myself simultaneously annoyed and creeped out by what was going on with her.
Anyway, I did think the author did a good job at creating atmosphere. I was genuinely nervous when Cass was driving through the woods, and again when she's alone in her house. It must also be terrifying to think that your mind is going. When Cass was trying to remain calm, I could almost her herself talking in the back of her mind about 'you're going mad! you're going mad!' The breakdown was slow and very subtle, and I think that's why it was so effective. Honestly, reading this story made me want to do brain teasers to keep my thoughts sharp. There was one key plot point near the end that seemed a little too convenient, but the author does write a brief scene where Cass acknowledges the convenience of what happened, so i appreciate that. This is my first B.A. Paris book, and I will definitely look into the others if they're anything like this one.
Favorite Quote: "...and the only thing that stops me leaping to my feet and ordering him out of the house is my middle-class upbringing."
This isn't my typical type of choice for favorite quote, in that it's not necessarily moving or uplifting, but boy did it make me think. There have been so many times in my life where I want to call someone out, or protest because someone ran into me or cut me off, or otherwise intimidated me, and I didn't say anything because I didn't want to come off as impolite. I'm continuing to work on being assertive, but it definitely is not my first instinct. How many women have been harmed because they chose to remain polite?!
Rating: 3.5/5. As far as page turners go, this was a pretty good one. The beginning was slower, but if you stick with it the payoff is worth it. I loved how the ending was structured. The book runs with us being in the same frame of mind as Cass, but by the end we find out that she knows what's happening and we find out after. The ending does give us a nice and tidy bow, which I always prefer to the ambiguous!
Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's press for allowing me to access this book early in exchange for an honest review.
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