Book: “The Breakdown” by B.A. Paris
Publishing Info: St Martin’s Press, July 2017
Where Did I Get This Book: The library!
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…
Review: Whenever I travel I like to bring a big stack of books with me, because most of the time I am able to tear through most of, if not all of, them. My husband and I went to Las Vegas for his birthday weekend a few weeks ago, and it probably doesn’t surprise anyone that Vegas isn’t really my cup o’tea. BUT, a vacation is a vacation no matter how gaudy, so I usually spend my time in Vegas at the pool with a book and a mimosa as opposed to in the casinos. Such compromise works for both of us.
But while on this trip, even though I brought four books, I only was able to spend time with one, and that was “The Breakdown” by B.A. Paris. It wasn’t for lack of pool time or down time, I can assure you of that. The problem was that this book written by the person who wrote the runaway hit “Behind Closed Doors”, was a slog and a half to get through, and I kept putting the book down in favor of my phone or conversation. I was determined to finish it, however, so I slowly picked away at it…. until the last fourth, when everything changed.
I didn’t really know what to make of this book for those first three fourths. Cass is definitely an unreliable narrator, and from her first person perspective we are only given what she sees. It’s established pretty early on that her mother suffered from early onset dementia, and that Cass has anxieties about her own mental health. After seeing a stopped car on the side of the road on a rainy night in a dark forest while she’s driving home, she is too fearful to stop and investigate. So when she finds out that not only was the woman inside the car murdered that evening, but that she knew her, her anxieties start to really fester and pulsate. When mysterious calls start coming in, with silence on the line, Cass starts to think that maybe the murderer is out to get her. Cass is pretty much your run of the mill hysterical protagonist, and while you understand where she is coming from, I found her to be basically insufferable. Yes, the fear she is constantly oozing is understandable and realistic, but she made so many choices that didn’t make much sense to me. Instead of confiding in anyone that she did, in fact, pass the woman in the car that night, she hides that fact, thinking that people would judge her for not stopping. Even when she is fully convinced that she’s being stalked, she doesn’t tell anyone, and at that point it just didn’t seem worth it to keep it secret. SO WHY KEEP IT SECRET?! I was also pretty convinced that I was diving head first into an ‘unreliable narrator with a huge shocking twist’ kind of story, and just couldn’t bring myself to give much of a damn until I decided that I just needed to finish it.
And then…….. it totally switched gears and blew my mind.
B.A. Paris made me think that this book was one thing, then that it was another thing, so when she revealed that it was NEITHER of those things but a whole other thing, I was totally thrown off guard and blown away. And going back and reading different parts, it was all there, hidden in the pages and in the exposition in ways that I completely glazed over as I read. Once we got to that last fourth, Cass went from a character that I was totally frustrated by to a character that I was actively cheering for. Everything changed and I didn’t see it coming. Now, that said, it probably shouldn’t have taken until the last fourth of the book to finally get me interested, because there were a couple of points before where I was tempted to set it down. While I was completely relieved that I stuck it out, I almost didn’t, and that’s not great, and it might have been too little, too late had it not been so bananas it where it went.
Now, I don’t want to go into much detail beyond that, because this is one of those books that you could be spoiled by just about anything. Just know that “The Breakdown” was a strange read for me, but I can say that yes, it’s worth the read, even if you too are frustrated by it for most of the time spent with it.
Rating 7: Though I felt like I had to slog through a fair amount of it, the moment that it really picked up I couldn’t put it down.
Find “The Breakdown” at your library using WorldCat!