The Dilemma by B.A. Paris

  The Dilemma by B. A. Paris


 Thank you B. A. Paris, HQ and NetGalley for gifting me this digital ARC in exchange for an honest review. The book will be published in the US on January 9, 2020.

A couple of words about the digital copy that downloaded to my Kindle from NetGalley as it was a bit of a jumble. There was no title page, just a few pages of reviews, a publishing page and then in the middle of a page the book begins. The bold function often over highlights into portions of the text. The body of the text is often separated out into single sentences. But the most perplexing glitch is that either the title of the book, The Dilemma or the author’s name, B.A. Paris is randomly inserted during paragraphs—often in the middle of sentences. Hopefully all this will be resolved before publishing, my version was readable but these glitches did make for cumbersome annoyances while reading.

This book is billed as general adult fiction. Ms. Paris takes a dramatic look into the domestic human psyche—a study of love, life choices, best intentions, secrets and lies—and it proved to be a “clear all decks” edge of your seat kind of read. This is the first book that I have read by B. A. Paris but I am sure to read more now that I have read this one.

Ms. Paris weaves a tale around a married couple who are each keeping a secret from the other and the efforts made to keep them that way. They both have convinced themselves that they are keeping their respective secret with the purest of best intentions—neither wants to ruin the other’s life and their family—not to mention the party.

The wife, Livia, is turning 40, she became pregnant while an unwed teenager and her ashamed parents disowned Livia and never spoke to her again. She and Adam, the father, subsequently got married after Josh was born— but these life choices totally broke to pieces the type of life that she had imagined leading. One of her biggest regrets was that she never got a “big splashy wedding” the type of which she and her mother had spent hours dreaming of and planning for—some future day.

Livia decides, promises herself, and plans for years in advance to give herself an over the top 40th birthday party instead. While Livia and Adam may have had a quick forced wedding they also had a love that endured, and their relationship grew with them as they matured.

Adam was also forced to make hard choices when the reality of life circumstance stood in front of his dreams, he gave up university and took up a trade. It took Adam a while to grow up and he still has lingering regrets about the road not taken. He only came fully to terms with the realities of fatherhood after the birth of his second child— daughter, Marnie,  which has often led to a prickly relationship with his first born son, Josh.

Josh, now a University student, is about to take an internship in America at a prestigious IT firm. Marnie, is also at University and at present is away studying in Hong Kong. Livia and Adam are facing an empty nest for the first time in their marriage.

We quickly find out that Livia is sitting on a secret about their daughter, Marnie. She hasn’t told Adam because she wants to talk to her daughter first and on some level it is not her secret to tell.

All we know at the beginning is that this revelation would destroy Adam, her family, and wreck the party. She is secretly relieved when Marnie tells her she can’t make the party and decides to solve her “dilemma” by waiting to tell Adam after the party.

Of course, Adam, realizing how much this party means to Livia, secretly arranges for Marnie to come home and surprise her mom at the party.

The story takes place over a slightly extended 24 hour timeline on the day of the party and told in a manner that allows for flashbacks and backstory. The story is told in alternating chapters between Livia and Adam. Ms. Paris also gives good denouement, the “after party”, which is an element of novels that I always appreciate.

While Adam is in town picking up his gift for Livia he hears some news that presents him with a potentially devastating secret about Marnie. But because he does not know all the facts Adam also decides to solve his “dilemma” by not telling Livia the news until after the party. Telling could mean the end of the family as they know it and he desperately seeks to give his wife this special night that she has dreamed of for so long.

I feel that sharing my opinions about how things further develop might come at the expense of supplying spoilers and this is not fair to other readers or the author. But I cannot resist a little more commentary on humanity, secrets, and lying.

This book on the surface is about secrets and lies, it is also about families, and friendships, but on a deeper level Ms. Paris is exploring elements of love and the lengths a person might go to keep a loved one from learning harmful truths.

I believe that it is an universal truth that the majority of humans will state that they always prefer to know the truth and that they do not liked to be lied to about anything. I further believe that the majority of these same humans will make the opposite decision when faced with the necessity of telling a damaging truth to a loved one, deciding to withhold the truth—until it can be told with kindness at a better time, or not at all— in order to protect this person.

Sometimes this done out of love, sometimes out of self interest, or more likely, as we see here —a combination of both.  I find this contradictory dichotomy in the human brain to be fascinating and the geek science girl that lurks beneath my surface wonders what kind of brain chemistry accounts for this quirkiness.

The notion that while I am capable of knowing this truth I think it is best not to tell *whoever* as this person can’t handle the truth and needs protected does seem a little condescending and patronizing. It deserves noting that both Adam and Livia, to their credit, fully intend to come clean with their other half but both decide to wait before breaking the news— not out of malicious intent but out of perceived kindness.

It is also worth noting that their respective decisions were not always completely altruistic as both held elements of denial as well, that longing to live a little bit longer in the imagined reality of their clueless loved ones.

Part of the “fun” of this book is how the author engages your mind as she fills up with your thoughts with decisions and judgments about how all the various characters handle their various choices surrounding these dilemmas.

For my own part, I can wrap my head around the mind set of Livia and Adam as they decided to keep their dilemma about Marnie secret from each other, but as I imagine being the spouse on the “receiving end” of the news I realized that I would be hard pressed to forgive some decisions not to tell.

How Ms. Paris resolves The Dilemma for all her various characters makes for valuable reading time well spent. I will definitely be reading her previous books.

About this Author:

B A Paris is the internationally bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors, The Breakdown and Bring Me Back. Having sold over one million copies in the UK alone, she is a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller as well as a number one bestseller on Amazon and iBooks. Her books have sold in 38 territories around the world. Having lived in France for many years, she recently moved back to the UK.

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Hi! I'm Debbie. Here at Categorically Well-Read I give an extra layer to the reading life. Learn more about me, check out my current category of books, submit your own suggestion, or check out my latest post.