I know I’ve said this before on the blog, but I really think books need trigger warnings, and selfishly, I’m thinking of a trigger warning that’s a little out of the norm. I usually avoid this as much as possible, but I need to include a *spoiler alert* in this review, because I can’t help but write about my reaction to this book without giving away this major plot point. I read The Dilemma by B.A. Paris in less than 48 hours, in fact, it kept me up well past my bedtime which is very unlike me – probably due to the jet lag I was still fighting. I had just gotten off a plane and was heading back onto one in a few days, so you can imagine my horror once I discovered this book included a devastating plane crash. My bookmark was my boarding pass for crying out loud!
Livia has been planning her fortieth birthday party for almost two decades. She’s been married to her loving partner Adam all that time, and together they are planning a big celebration to make up for the lavish wedding they never had. This book takes place over the ‘big day’, from the last minute preparations to the wee hours of the morning after the guests leave. Unlike many domestic thrillers, this book doesn’t include murder or malicious intent. Instead it’s about keeping secrets from those you love with the hopes of protecting them and giving someone a deserved few hours of happiness before their life comes crashing down on them. Adam, Livia, and their son Josh all have secrets they are keeping from one another, some are even in denial themselves, and I raced through the pages to see if their worst fears do come true, and when or if they finally come clean, and whose deepest secret comes out first.
I’ve talked on this blog before about my hatred of flying. I really don’t like heights, and airplanes, or anything to do with airports. My palms get a bit sweaty even when I drive near our local airport, I hate it that much. Still, I do it, because I want to see my extended family and swim in the ocean occasionally. Is asking for a trigger warning about a plane crash bizarre? Probably, I still wish I had known about it though, I wouldn’t have chosen this book to bring with me on a trip overseas.
Despite my anxiety, I couldn’t put this book down, I read 3/4 of it in one night. As my husband woke up beside me, the lights still burning bright, he asked me in shock what was wrong, it’s so unlike me to stay awake late into the night, my regular bedtime is 9pm. Whether it be adrenaline or jet lag, I had to read to the end of this book once I got into it, I had no choice in the matter. That alone should be the only recommendation one needs to pick up this novel, especially considering this author didn’t rely on salacious murders to keep up the thrills. This was suspense of a different kind: the dread you feel in your stomach once you realize a relationship is going to change forever, or the guilt that gnaws at your stomach after a few days of keeping terrible secret. We’ve all been there, and we all know how terrible it feels.
The character dynamics are incredibly drawn out and detailed, the focus narrows in on this family and the secondary characters spun out from them. We may not have known what time of year this book was set in, but we got a very clear sense of the resentments, loves, and disappointments that brought each person to where we found them that very day. Livia is an especially fascinating character; obsessed with this party I first considered her selfish, but the more I got to know her, the more I liked and related to her. Each person was painfully realistic, full of contradictions but compelling and engaging nonetheless. This book won’t be for everyone, but stick to at-home reading if you do give it a go.
I just recently started adding content warnings to my posts again. Why? I realized that when I’m trying to choose a horror movie for Friday night — I watch a horror film every Friday — that I ask the horror community on Twitter questions like, “Does this one have prolonged torture? Does it have graphic body mutilation? Does it have rape?” To me, these questions make a big difference, and by having the horror community help me out, I avoid movies that I know will traumatize me. I also started adding more about why a book may not be a great choice for someone right now, such as my review of Crying in H-Mart just recently, which describe the cancer treatment, hospice care, and then death of the author’s mother. Anyone who has cared for a dying loved one wouldn’t want to read this book so soon, I would think.
I appreciate trigger warnings, I hope they become more wide spread. And us critics will help that happen I think 🙂
Which ones help you decide to not pick up a book? I want to make sure my list is inclusive but doesn’t become so specific that it’s meaningless.
Other than airplane crashes/emergencies? Things to do with children; the disappearance of a child, the torture or abuse of a child, the murder of a child, that sort of thing.
Ohhhh, good call. I have a note about children on my master list of content warnings, but not a note about missing/kidnapped children.
That’s the problem with trigger warnings – we all have such different fears. Planes don’t bother me, but I hate when there’s a pet dog or cat in a book because I spend the whole time worrying if the author will do something awful to it, and even if they don’t the worry kills the enjoyment of the book. Dementia, cancer – both things I prefer not to read about. And I really hate when a young child is put in peril for my entertainment, even though I know it’s fictional! Haha, maybe there’s a reason cosies are so popular… 😉
Oh that is sort of chilling that you were about to fly and the book had a devastating plane crash. I love going places but I am always leery of flying so I know I would have been pretty rilled if I had been reading this book before (or while) flying! But I enjoyed your review and it sounds like an interesting book to put on my list to read (but not right before a flight!)
Yes, it’s a great book for when ppl aren’t traveling – like right now! LOL
Yep, I know to avoid this now, thanks! I’m not a great flyer either, Anne!
I’m beginning to notice a trend in nervous fliers and bookworms – can we blame our love of books for this fear I wonder? haha
Oooook, but that’s also kinda funny, right? I mean come on, you rarely fly and you just happened to pick this particular thriller when you were on a holiday that required that you fly home? Hello, universe: thanks for pranking Anne.
Yes, I really thought – OMG what are the odds? I’ve had it on my shelf for years and I just happen to pick it up for my vacation?