I read Disappearing in Plain Sight back in 2014 for Rosie Amber‘s Book Review Team and enjoyed it very much.
Sixteen-year-old Lisa-Marie has been packed off to spend the summer with her aunt on the isolated shores of Crater Lake. She is drawn to Izzy Montgomery, a gifted trauma counsellor who is struggling through personal and professional challenges. Lisa-Marie also befriends Liam Collins, a man who goes quietly about his life trying to deal with his own secrets and guilt. The arrival of a summer renter for Izzy’s guest cabin is the catalyst for change amongst Crater Lake’s tight knit community. People are forced to grapple with the realities of grief and desire to discover that there are no easy choices – only shades of grey.
Lisa-Marie is spending the summer on the beautiful shores of Crater Lake, Vancouver Island, with her Aunt Bethany and her aunt’s partner, Beulah. They live by Camp Micah, a refuge for troubled teenagers who have spent years in care, and among a small diverse community who all have their own conflicting personalities, emotions and issues.
Crater Lake is remote and peaceful, a place to which people gravitate in the hope of leaving behind their troubled pasts. But, as the cast of very authentic and well drawn characters find, problems have a tendency to follow on regardless, as if attached by an invisible cord. And no matter how much or how long they are ignored, one day they will demand to be resolved.
On her first evening at the A-Frame, Lisa-Marie grabbed a novel from the coffee table and flopped onto the sofa. She didn’t mind spending her time with a good book but she usually got to pick reading over other options – no TV, no internet and no phone. It was like being captive on an episode of Survivor….
Beulah strolled casually by the sofa flipping a brochure onto Lisa-Marie’s lap. ‘Micah Camp…why not check it out? Maybe they need a cook’s helper or something. Maybe you could get a job….better than lying around on your ass for the next two months.’ Lisa-Marie had to give Beulah credit. That remark slid in like a well aimed shiv in the prison exercise yard. And the timing was superb; her Auntie Beth had walked out of the room just moments before.
Izzy Montgomery is a psychological trauma counsellor, a widow grieving for her husband, Caleb, who was the grounding force in her life for so many years. Caleb’s influence is still felt strongly and his absence affects the residents of Crater Lake. They can do nothing else but accept and control their reactions as best they can. The different perspectives give a lot of insight into each wounded and complex personality, and as a result there are strong feelings running through the narrative along with the underlying effects of guilt, bullying, grief and abuse. These challenging social issues are handled with sensitivity and illustrate how they can have a devastating effect on the people suffering the consequences of such emotional ordeals.
Each chapter explores a specific character and includes past events which eventually brought them to Crater Lake and this point in their lives. It’s really fascinating and clever the way Francis Guenette has woven together these individual stories with insight and awareness for human nature and frailties.
This summer at Crater Lake, with transient folk added to the mix, precipitates a change in everyone’s life with the emotional strains and tensions, which have built up over time, challenging them all to focus on soul-searching and whether there is the ability to leave troubles in the past where they belong, leaving the way open to adjust and move forward.
The setting is extremely appealing and very visual, the detailed descriptions of the area are evocative and expressive. The story encompasses a lot, some experiences no-one should have to experience, unrequited love, dealing with loss and grief and eventually coming round to letting go of blame and so being able to embrace the not always easy process of healing.
This book is reviewed for Rosie Amber‘s book review team and is based on a digital copy from the author. This does not affect my opinion or the content of my review.
About the author
Francis Guenette has spent most of her life on the west coast of British Columbia. She lives with her husband and dog and finds inspiration for writing in the beauty and drama of their lakeshore cabin and garden on the Northern end of Vancouver Island. She lives in an off-the-grid home that employs a combination of micro-hydro and solar power.
Between May and September, Billy Bob the Bear drops over to graze and eat huckleberries and salal. Now and then cougar tracks are spotted meandering across the property. Life is good in the hinterlands, but Francis warns – you have to keep your eyes open and know where you are.
Francis has a daughter and a son – both happily married and pursuing interesting careers. She also has two beautiful and wildly funny granddaughters who provide her with inspiration for writing and living.
For most of her working life, Francis has been an educator. She has worked with special needs children and youth and taught at the undergrad level at the University of Victoria. She has a graduate degree in counselling psychology and very nearly completed her PhD. There was that pesky matter of the doctoral dissertation, but enough said on that score! She has worked as a trauma counsellor, a researcher, and a graduate student supervisor.
During her academic life Francis published (on her own and with others) several articles that were accepted to peer-reviewed journals as well as contributing to chapters in two published books. Disappearing in Plain Sight is her first novel. She is already hard at work on the sequel.
Visit her WordPress blog http://disappearinginplainsight.com to learn all you would ever want to know about Francis and her writing life. There you can like her on Facebook. You are also invited to follow Francis on Twitter @FrancisGuenette