Seeking Sarah by ReShonda Tate Billingsley

By Ekta R. Garg

August 23, 2017

Genre: Women’s fiction

Release date: August 15, 2017

Rated: Bypass it / 2 stars

A woman discovers that her “dead” mother actually abandoned her and the rest of the family years earlier and goes to find her. The questions that plague her, however, also cause her to neglect the other relationships in her life, and she comes to a life-altering moment that may make her lose everything. Author ReShonda Tate Billingsley tries to shape a compelling novel but instead misses the mark by a cavernous margin in the juvenile plot of Seeking Sarah.

Brooke Hayes knows what it’s like to lose someone she loves. The love of her life died in an accident, and her mother died when she was 7 years old. She even lost her dog a year ago. Her father and grandmother do all they can to help her, even this many years later, but Brooke still feels the emptiness left especially by her mother’s death.

When Brooke’s father goes into the hospital and then dies unexpectedly, Brooke doesn’t think she can hold herself together. How much more loss, she wonders, will she have to sustain? The question becomes irrelevant for her, though, when her grandmother reveals the most stunning news of all: Brooke’s mother, Sarah, didn’t die. She simply left the family.

As she tries to grapple with the fact, the new man in her life, Trent, announces he’s re-enlisting in the Navy. At one time Brooke thought she could see herself sharing a future with Trent, which included a civilian life and no more tours in the military. Now everything she knows for sure has spiraled out of control.

She decides that before she can explore a future with Trent, she has to find her mother and get the answers to questions that have left her longing for maternal affection. Brooke hires a private investigator who tracks her mother down in Atlanta, just hours away from Brooke’s home in Raleigh, NC. More shocking than the proximity is the news that Sarah remarried and has other children.

Incensed that the woman who gave birth to her has been so close for so many years and apparently living a happy life with a new family, Brooke drives straight to Atlanta to confront Sarah. There she meets Sarah’s children and then her new husband, and before Brooke knows it she finds herself in the most compromising situation of all. She has the power to destroy her mother’s life to get revenge; all she needs to decide is whether she’s going to go through with her plan.

Author ReShonda Tate Billingsley gets everything possible wrong with this story that an author can. Her main character, Brooke, evokes absolutely no sympathy whatsoever. Because the story is told in first person, readers get to know Brooke in the most intimate of ways. Her justifications to herself for her actions only weaken her argument. She sounds more like she’s trying to convince herself that because her mother hurt her, she has carte blanche to do anything her whims might dictate for revenge. She does get that revenge, but it’s in the most immature way possible and only brings about more sorrow for everyone involved.

By the end of the book, readers will most likely wonder why they waited around for some possible redemption. Despite numerous opportunities for it, Billingsley never steps in and allows Brooke a gracious way out of a difficult situation. At one point, Brooke makes the observation that she’s in her mid-30s; her characterization makes her sound like a whiny teenager.

The other characters, too, lack any traits to make readers like them. Trent, Brooke’s love interest, comes across as self-centered and pig-headed. Brooke’s father doesn’t get a chance to offer any explanation whatsoever for why he and Sarah split, which makes him look almost unnecessary to the story. Sarah’s new husband will repel readers with his “creepiness” from their first interaction with him, and her stepson seems more disturbed than Brooke herself.

Most disappointing is Sarah. Billingsley doesn’t give her titular character a concrete reason for leaving Brooke. Readers will have a bevy of guesses before reading the book for why Sarah might have left. All of those guesses will be wrong. In truth, Sarah herself never manages to answer Brooke’s question of “Why” even though Brooke confronts her on numerous occasions. The best Sarah can manage is a shrug and a mumbled apology.

I recommend readers Bypass Seeking Sarah.