Review: The Face of the Earth by Deborah Raney

What if she never came home . . . ?

When Mitchell Brannon’s beloved wife sets off for home after a conference, he has no idea that his life is about to change forever. Mitch returns from work early that evening, surprised that Jill’s car isn’t in the garage. But her voice on the answering machine makes him smile. “Hey, babe, I’m just now checking out of the hotel, but I’ll stop and pick up something for dinner. Love you.” Hours later, Jill still hasn’t returned, and Mitch’s irritation turns to dread.

When the police come up empty, Mitch enlists the help of their next-door neighbor, Jill’s best friend, Shelley, to help search. As hours turn into days and days into weeks, Mitch and Shelley’s friendship grows ever closer—and decidedly more complicated. Every lead seems to be a dead end, and Mitch wonders how he can honor the vows he made to a woman who has seemingly disappeared from the face of the earth.

I’ve read a number of Deb Raney’s books, though not nearly all of them, and have had the privilege of meeting her several times. She’s as sweet as everyone says ;). Promise.

I’d heard scuttlebutt about this book – how it’s one of her best, if not the best. I’ll admit to being a bit scared that it would disappoint, but /whew/ it didn’t.

Deb delves into a question most of us [thank God] will never have to face. What if your spouse just… disappeared? No trace. Implausible, but possible, reason she might have just left on her own, without any word to anyone. As days, weeks, months, pass – when do you give up hope? When do you say “okay, she’s probably dead and if not, she obviously doesn’t want to be found” and get on with your life? How many months makes “presumed dead” a real option [Elizabeth Smart, anyone?] rather than a worst-case, can’t-let-myself-believe-it scenario?

And what if you have a growing attraction to your wife’s best friend [or your best friend’s husband, as the case may be] who is willing to go to the ends of the earth with you to find her?

And then, what if your wife [or best friend] comes back after you both have admitted to feelings for each other?

Another review I read said the reviewer had a problem with Mitch even contemplating moving on six months after Jill’s disappearance. I didn’t have a problem with that – there’s no hard and fast rules to moving on – some will move on quickly [and should, for the right reasons – others shouldn’t or do for the wrong reasons] and others will never “move on” in the sense that they’ll never find their second true love.

Deb has dealt with many different scenarios in other books:

  • Moving on quickly after the death of a spouse, perhaps too quickly – Yesterday’s Embers
  • When your fiance dies, leaving only her children, and an ex who wants them back – A Nest of Sparrows
  • When your spouse is physically present but mentally, emotionally, spiritually already gone – A Vow to Cherish*
  • When your missionary husband is reported killed in a neighboring village and you mourn, move on with your life and remarry, then discover he’s not really dead after all – Beneath a Southern Sky
    and After the Rains*

Overall, I was happy with how she dealt with the situation, though I did wonder what would happen if/when Jill came home. Once Mitch and Shelley admit their growing feelings [MONTHS after the disappearance], what would their relationships with Jill be like upon her return?

I’ll not get into the ending here [it doesn’t get into that aspect – whether because Jill doesn’t return or it ends with her return, I won’t say], but I was left relatively satisfied but wishing for more – perhaps in a sequel set in the same town.

I would have liked to know more about what was going on with Jill and Mitch’s son [particularly as it related to his on-again-off-again relationship with Shelley’s daughter], but overall Deb knocks it out of the park once again.

Overall rating: 8.5 out of 9 stars

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ecopy in exchange for my honest opinion.
*I’ve not read Vow to Cherish for no particular reason. I’ve not read Beneath a Southern Sky and After the Rains because the back cover of After the Rains spoiled the ending of Southern Sky. Now, granted, this was years after their release but I didn’t realize Rains was the sequel or I wouldn’t have read it. I may still some day because I’ve heard they’re quite good, but I haven’t at this point.

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