by B.A. Paris
Publication: St. Martin’s Press; June 30, 2020
About the book: It’s Livia’s 40th birthday and she’s having the party of a lifetime to make up for the wedding she never had. Everyone she loves will be there except her daughter Marnie, who’s studying abroad. But although Livia loves Marnie, she’s secretly glad she won’t be at the party. She needs to tell Adam something about their daughter but she’s waiting until the party is over so they can have this last happy time together.
Adam wants everything to be perfect for Livia so he’s secretly arranged for Marnie to come home and surprise her on her birthday. During the day, he hears some terrible news. He needs to tell Livia, because how can the party go on? But she’s so happy, so excited – and the guests are about to arrive.
The Dilemma – how far would you go to give someone you love a last few hours of happiness?
One day that will change a family forever.
I saw a review for this book on Meggy’s blog, Chocolate’n’Waffles, last week and knew I needed to bump this up on my TBR. I absolutely devoured this novel, ignoring all other responsibilities in life until I finished it. But it was funny because after finishing, I went back to Meggy’s review and noticed that although we both loved the book, it seemed to be for completely different reasons – which I always find exciting when a book touches readers in different ways!
As the blurb states, it’s Livia’s 40th birthday and she has been planning this elaborate birthday bash for twenty years. Yes, unfortunately, I said that this woman has been planning her birthday party for twenty years… Honestly, as soon as I learned that information, I almost stopped reading because I didn’t want to waste time reading about someone so narcissistic. Nevertheless, I pushed on – and I’m glad.
Anyway, I quickly learned that Livia is hiding something from her husband, Adam, but doesn’t want to tell him until after her party, for fear of ruining the last chance for all of their family and friends happily gathering together. My mind went a million different places, but once I realized it was in regards to their daughter Marnie, my mind went a million more different places. Guess what? I was completely wrong. Off the mark, nowhere close to what the real situation was. And I liked it.
Adam also has a secret, although initially, it’s nowhere near as serious as Livia’s. This is where I noticed a disconnect between myself and other reviewers. I was completely team-Adam from the beginning to the end of this novel. His secret was fun and exciting. Livia’s… Not so much.
Without hinting anymore about the meat of the novel, let’s talk about B.A.Paris’ outstanding characterization and amazing portrait of a normal, yet dysfunctional family. Rarely does a reader get the pleasure to meet such raw and honest characters. However, in The Dilemma, prepare to feel every bit of tension, joy, pressure, happiness, and sadness. Even better is the front and center theme in regards to lies. Lies are lies, regardless of intent. I struggled with this part a little bit, but a takeaway from reading this novel is – do not lie, even if you are planning a wonderful surprise for someone, do not lie. You want to surprise your family with a new car or a new puppy? Great! But don’t lie in the process. Want to get your loved one a secret gift or just do something nice for them? Wonderful, but don’t lie about it!
I saw a segment on The Today Show the other day and only caught a tiny bit of it but it was discussing lies in marriages. Even little tiny lies like “I’m five minutes away, almost there” when the person is actually still packing up at work can destroy a relationship. Then they went on to say that you should disclose any lies withing 12-24 hours of telling them. So is it o.k. to lie if there is good reason, such as wanting your partner to be happy? Is it o.k. to lie if you are planning a fantastic, amazing, fabulous surprise that you know will make your partner happy? You know, a few days ago I would have answered, “sure!” After reading The Dilemma, however, I may have changed my mind just a little.
The Dilemma is as relatable as it is shocking. Any of you out there reading this review could be any of the characters in this novel. Kudos to B.A. Paris for creating something so addictive and juicy, yet completely relatable and something I could honestly imagine happening to anyone. I’m only about 5 books in for 2020, but this is absolutely the best so far. Highly recommended!
*Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing this review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.