The Bossy Bookworm
Review of And Then She Vanished (Joseph Bridgman #1) by Nick Jones
Much of the book involves thwarted attempts to unravel the past by a main protagonist who has been emotionally destroyed by trauma and loss.
Joseph Bridgeman took his little sister to the fair, and he only looked away for a second. But in that instant, his little sister Amy disappeared.
Two decades later, Joe remains haunted by her absence. He obsesses over what he might have done differently, how he might have paid more attention, how he might have saved her.
Joe has always had certain "viewings": he can sometimes touch an object and see clear scenes from the past, understanding how and when that object was important to someone. He glimpses moments from the past when he holds Amy's hair ribbon, which was lost that day. But the viewing offers no concrete information that he can use.
He is a shell of a man, ruined by the loss of his sister. His father and mother were similarly brutally damaged by Amy's disappearance.
In an attempt to cure his insomnia, Joe undergoes hypnotherapy...and finds out that he has bigger powers than he ever imagined: he can travel back through time.
He repeatedly attempts to time travel to the night Amy disappeared, but the amount of time he can spend in the past is getting shorter and shorter, and if he can't reach the correct day soon, the possibility of figuring out what happened to Amy will slip through his fingers forever.
I listened to And Then She Vanished as an audiobook. The book is set in Great Britain, and the supporting characters have British accents. I couldn't figure out any reason why Joe would not have a British accent, but he did not, although he uses words like "tetchy" and "proper" and is meant to be British. I found this American-accented Joe extremely distracting.
A grown man's voicing of the little-girl voice for Amy felt off to me, and the tone of the narration came across to me as generally irritated, as though Joe were fed up with it all.
Joe is presented as a guy's guy here. He is understandably emotionally stunted and is somewhat childlike in certain ways because of his life of trauma and loss. But at one point in the book, when he's preparing to have a woman at his house, he looks around at how messy it is and says something to the effect of "Did all of these clothes that are lying around just walk themselves into every room?" I was impatient with this "helpless, clueless man" scenario. NO, JOE. THAT IS NOT WHAT HAPPENED. You made a mess. You made all of this mess. Take responsibility for yourself, mister!
Because of our extremely limited our page time with Amy, who is the heart of the mission here--and the loss of Amy caused the unraveling heartbreak and destruction for her family--she comes across as one-dimensional. The structure of the story and its focus on Joe and his attempt to master time travel didn't allow me to feel a connection to her.
At around 85 percent of the way through the book, we finally see a version of the encounter we've been waiting for. We spend much of the page time that leads up to that moment--that is, by far the bulk of the book--with other people telling Joe theories about how to jump through time, teaching Joe how to improve his mindfulness, and with Joe making frustratingly brief, failed attempts.
The resolution involves a twist I had anticipated and leaves a main character in a state of upheaval as a result of the time travel (as part of a classic time-travel conundrum involving alternate paths and lives). The latter situation felt immensely unsatisfying to me.
Yet I loved the premise of this story, and I do love a time-travel book and a mystery. This is the first in a series.
Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?
If you like books that play with time, you may like the books on the Greedy Reading List Six Second-Chance, Do-Over, Reliving-Life Stories or some of the other time-travel stories I've reviewed.