Two sisters travel to an isolated Arizona town to investigate its connection to their mother’s death, but uncover more than they bargained for in this supernatural thriller from the author of The Dead and the Dark. Beck Birsching has been adrift since the death of her mother, a brilliant but troubled investigative reporter. She can’t stop herself from slipping into memories of happier days, longing for a time when things were more normal. So when a mysterious letter in her mother’s handwriting arrives in the mail that reads Come and find me, pointing to the small town at the center of her last investigation, Beck hopes that it may hold the answers. But when Beck and her sister Riley arrive in Backravel, Arizona, it’s clear that something’s off. There are no cars, no cemeteries, no churches. The town is a mix of dilapidated military structures and new, shiny buildings, all overseen by a gleaming treatment center high on a plateau. No one seems to remember when they got there, and when Beck digs deeper into the town’s enigmatic leader and his daughter, Avery, she begins to suspect that they know more than they’re letting on. As Beck and her sister search for answers about their mother, she and Avery are increasingly drawn together, and their unexpected connection brings up emotions Beck has fought to keep buried. Beck is desperate to hold onto the way things used to be, but when she starts losing herself in Backravel—and its connection to her mother— she risks losing her way back out. In Where Echoes Die, Courtney Gould draws readers into a haunting desert town to explore grief, the weight of not letting go of the past, first love, and the bonds between sisters, (and) mothers and daughters.
This book is the most layered and nuanced depiction of grief I’ve ever read. And while, that is its flashing monicker, its neon sign from the very beginning, grief is not its core. For me, Where Echoes Die highlights relationships. The way they change over time, the way they’re affected by pain and loss, and what we’re willing to sacrifice in their name.
Beck Birshing, was willing to sacrifice anything if it meant returning to life before loss.
I, myself, have never lived through the kind of pain that Beck and Riley have. The upending of your whole foundation: the loss of a parent.
That’s not something I can empathize with.
This book does an incredible job of giving us a close-up of what that looks like. The way Beck churns and churns, trying desperately to do what she’s supposed to without actually stopping to feel or experience what she’s going through. She clings to her memories, to the way her relationship with her mother, Ellery, used to be before she died. Before that relationship was marred by absence and emptiness.
Beck tries to replace what she’s lost with her investigation of Backravel. She tries to find her mother in the tiny little frozen Desert town, where sunsets and sunrises look the same, and time seems to stop. She looks for her in the abysmal town library, in dust-covered shop windows, in the trailer she and her sister Riley rent for their two-week stay. She digs through the muck and the haziness of Backravel until it all starts to crumble like rotting clay in her hands.
The revelations in the book are hard hard-won won, easter eggs dropped in the past and the present, fitting together to create the whole picture. Beck doesn’t see this picture, the truth of Backravel, until the climax of her story, but all the pieces fit together—train tracks leading to one destination. The truth.
And when we get there, nothing is quite what we expected. Some things are worse and some things are beautiful.
In the end, relationships once broken are mended or on the mend. We, the readers, have gone on a poignant, raw, and twisty ride through grief and pain and love and fear. Fear of the future and fear of the unknown. But when echoes die we have no choice but to face the unknown. The only way to move on is to move forward.
And that’s what I got from this wonderful sophomore novel by Courtney Gould.