Fans of unreliable narrators and carefully crafted mysteries are in for a treat with Kate A. Boorman’s What We Buried, a relentlessly trippy narrative packed with family drama and unexpected chills.
Liv is suing her parents for retribution and her emancipation after years of emotional abuse. She was groomed for the pageant circuit at a young age and was soon featured on Darling Divas, a fictional take on Toddlers & Tiaras, where her winning routines and propensity for rage meltdowns made her infamous. Now, all she wants is for her parents to pay for stealing her childhood. Her older brother Jory, on the other hand, never saw the positive attention Liv sometimes experienced. He was born with Moebius Syndrome, a partial facial paralysis that makes it extremely difficult to form facial expressions or enunciate clearly. A surgical procedure could help him gain back some control, but funding Liv’s pageants was always more important. Though he still lives with their parents until he heads off to college, Jory has been shunned and treated as an embarrassment his whole life.
Then, on the day of Liv’s big court verdict, their parents are suddenly gone. Jory knows what he saw: His parents vanishing right before his eyes, there one moment and gone the next. But he knows better than to tell anyone that story. When Liv insists that she knows where their parents went, the two siblings go on a roadtrip to find them– and find themselves in an inexplicable whirlwind instead. As the road turns them around and impossible scenarios unfold in front of them, they’re met with the sinking feeling that this has all happened before. They will have to depend on each other to parse out the differences between illusion and reality.
Liv and Jory are not the typical sibling stereotypes you see in most novels. Theirs is a relationship of abuse and abuse adjacents– Despite the fact that their parents are the ones who manipulated them, Liv and Jory both blame each other to some degree. Liv hates that Jory got to live a “normal” life away from their stage mom’s hellbent pursuit of perfection, Jory despises Liv for abandoning him to their alcoholic father and cruel peers while always focusing everyone’s attention on herself. Deep down, the two absolutely root for each other over their parents, but it’s buried under layers of hardened resentment.
Their journey together is part mystery thriller, part mind-melting breakdown of time and space as we know it. The characters and environment are beyond unreliable, driving readers toward an insatiable need to find out what’s really happening. The result is a hauntingly surreal display of two people who just want to control their own fate.
Though fast-paced and wildly intriguing, the story relies a bit too heavily on memories. Some were very relevant to the plot, but others felt excessive. The extras are meant to further develop Liv and Jory’s dynamics with each other and their parents, but they’re re-enforced so thoroughly that eventually, it can feel like filler. It didn’t slow me down too much, though, as the flashbacks are usually short.
If novels like One Of Us Is Lying or We Were Liars line your shelves, What We Buried is ready to suck you in with compelling characters and an ever-changing landscape, so be prepared to pick it up in February 2019!
RATING: 4.5 OUT OF 5 STARS
“Do you ever just want to be believed?”
Siblings Liv and Jory Brewer have grown up resenting each another. Liv—former pageant queen and reality TV star—was groomed for a life in the spotlight, while her older brother, Jory, born with a partial facial paralysis, was left in the shadows. The only thing they have in common is contempt for their parents.
Now Liv is suing her mom and dad for emancipation, and Jory views the whole thing as yet another attention-getting spectacle. But on the day of the hearing, their parents mysteriously vanish, and the siblings are forced to work together. Liv feels certain she knows where they are and suspects that Jory knows more than he’s telling…which is true.
What starts as a simple overnight road trip soon takes a turn for the dangerous and surreal. And as the duo speeds through the deserts of Nevada, brother and sister will unearth deep family secrets that force them to relive their pasts as they try to retain a grip on the present.