Review

The Face of the Earth

by Deborah Raney

What would happen if someone you love just disappeared? Vanished off the face of the earth. Mitch Brannon is about to find out.

Jill Brannon leaves a voice mail for her husband that she is just departing the hotel where she had been attending a teacher’s conference, and will be home in a few hours in time for dinner.

She never arrives.

Mitch calls the police, who investigate all possibilities, and suggest the idea that Jill has left of her own free will. But that is something Mitch refuses to believe. His 20-year marriage may not have been perfect, but it was certainly solid, and anyone who knows Jill would tell you there is no way she would just take off without telling anyone, especially her husband or children.

Shelley Austin, divorcee and next-door-neighbor, is quick to come to Mitch’s side, waiting anxiously for word about what could have happened to Jill. She offers support to the Brannon family while dealing with her own emotional distress that comes with losing a best friend.

"Author Deborah Raney does a realistic and thorough job of exploring each emotion experienced by Mitch and Shelley. Handled with sensitivity and care, the reader is left to make her own decision on what is appropriate regarding their relationship."

As hours turn into days, days into weeks, and weeks into months, the police are unable to solve the case. They have to admit that the likelihood of finding Jill alive is slowly dwindling. But Mitch and Shelley continue to cling to hope. They even do some digging on their own, as they retrace the route they assume Jill took home from that hotel, interviewing several people along the way. As they continue in their quest to find out what happened, Mitch and Shelley find themselves fighting an attraction to each other.

What a fascinating premise. The conflict and struggle Mitch and Shelley face are both provocative and thought-provoking. How long is suitable to wait before acting on their romantic emotions? Is there an appropriate “waiting time” in this case, or is even the thought of a husband and his missing wife’s best friend incomprehensible? How do Mitch and Shelley deal with their grief and sadness over losing someone they love, mixed with overwhelming feelings of attraction, desire, and a longing to accept comfort and support from another who understands? And then there’s the guilt and sense of betrayal if they give in to their emotions. Add to that the disheartening fact that the police have all but closed the case, and they may never know what happened to Jill.

Author Deborah Raney does a realistic and thorough job of exploring each emotion experienced by Mitch and Shelley. Handled with sensitivity and care, the reader is left to make her own decision on what is appropriate regarding their relationship. God is kept very much at the center of the story, and individual faith plays a big part in how Mitch and Shelley handle their growing attraction. But while Mitch struggles to do the right thing and remain faithful to his wife, despite not even knowing if she’s alive, he can’t help bombarding God with a plethora of questions: Questions of why. Questions of how. Questions that seem to forever go unanswered.

Besides the emotional investment into the lives of the characters, Raney pens an outstanding plot that keeps readers hanging on and turning pages, driven to find out just what happened to this suburban mom who seems to have simply vanished into thin air. There are several curveballs and possibilities thrown at Mitch and Shelley, providing direction in their search, but also creating more confusion as they dig deeper into Jill’s disappearance. The mystery continues to the end when everything comes together in an unexpected way.

Overall, the characters, emotional elements, mystery and intriguing plot make THE FACE OF THE EARTH a great read.

Reviewed by Lynda Lee Schab on June 14, 2013

The Face of the Earth
by Deborah Raney