Book Review: The Dilemma by B.A. Paris

PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge Prompt: A book with the same title as a movie or TV show but is unrelated to it Other PS 2020 re...

PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge Prompt: A book with the same title as a movie or TV show but is unrelated to it

Other PS 2020 reading prompts this would satisfy: A book that's published in 2020,  A book published the month of your birthday, A book featuring one of the seven deadly sins

TW: Chronic illness, death, abortion

I've been a fan of B.A. Paris since I read Behind Closed Doors almost five years ago, and to this day it is still one of the most chilling, haunting books I have ever read. It was one of the first novels I read that I'd consider a domestic thriller, and it really pulled me into the genre. It's still a book that I highly recommend, though it is truly sickening and should be approached with caution. Since then, I've read every B.A. Paris novel, and while none compare to Behind Closed Doors, I still immensely enjoy reading her novels. And I enjoyed The Dilemma very much.

Livia's 40th birthday is coming up and she's ready for the party of a lifetime. She and Adam got pregnant when they were young, and got married without a proper wedding celebration. Her birthday celebration will make up for that. She cannot wait to be surrounded by her family and friends. Her daughter, Marnie, will still be away in Hong Kong, and she's okay with that, because she's disappointed in her daughter right now. Though nobody knows about that, and no one knows why. And what Livia doesn't know is that Adam has planned a huge surprise for her party - he's bringing Marnie home. But the day of the party, the flight Marnie was supposed to be on has crashed. Good news is, she probably missed that flight. But if so, why can't Adam get in touch with her? Both Livia and Adam are keeping secrets, but they're both bound for the party to happen - they'll share their secrets once the night ends. 

I love a book where you know there are secrets, you know something has happened but it's slowly revealed to you what it is. It's the classic case for a Liane Moriarty novel (think: Big Little Lies), and it was the case in this novel. It's one hell of a slow burn. The chapters are broken down by hour and divided into a chapter from Livia and a chapter from Adam during the same hour. So little by little, secrets are spilling out to the reader, but are being held back from the other characters. At the same time, the reader also doesn't have all the answers, so it leads for an enthralling read. I had no idea what to actually believe, and since the point-of-view is that of the two main protagonists, and they're both holding secrets, the story spins this dark, frustrating web that keeps wrapping you up and pulling you in.

It's also interesting to really see the dynamics of both Livia and Adam. One is holding secrets out of denial and this overwhelming sense of kindness, while the other is holding secrets for a more selfish reason. So it's intriguing to see how it all plays out and how the story ends.

This is not a happy book. It deals a lot with grief and hardships, the secrets being kept are dark and haunting. Honestly, the overall theme of the story kind of reminded me of Hereditary, though not quite as terrifying. But I was satisfied with the ending, because it seemed honest and real.

"Adam and I are dancing, and I'm so close to crying I can hardly hold back the tears. I know that anyone watching would take them for tears of happiness. But there's this huge sadness swelling up inside me. It's coming from Adam, seeping from his pores into mine, filling me with a sorrow I don't understand. I can feel that he's barely hanging on, that all he wants is for this party to be over and everyone to leave." - The Dilemma, B.A. Paris

If you've never read Paris, all her books are quite dark in a way that is very much real-life hauntedness. These aren't supernatural scary stories, but more so stories that creep into your psyche and force you to put yourself in the shoes of the characters. While this book wasn't quite as sickening as Behind Closed Doors, I can imagine it's quite horrifying for someone with children. It definitely tugged on my emotions, but I would have felt it all a lot deeper if I had kids of my own. The Dilemma is another solid choice from B.A. Paris.

Goodreads rating: ★★★★☆

*I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own. 

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