After beating up her murderous family with zero consequences because she is rich, American, and beautiful, Brianna goes to visit her mother's grave. She chats for awhile with the caretaker, who remembers a young man who visited 15 or 20 years ago and carved a heart into the gravestone.
When she pulled back her long hair and blew at the headstone to clean it further, the morning sun highlighted her birthmark.(In case you needed a reminder that Brianna is unique and beautiful.)
She is certain that the man was her father, but seems baffled as to why he'd carve a heart on the stone, because there's absolutely no way it could be an expression of his love for the woman who died or anything, that's just ridiculous.
“He knows Mira is buried here, but does he think it’s her baby buried next to her?”
Conrad’s response was quick and certain. “Brianna, your father might have put that heart on the grave to let you know he was looking for you.”What? Now THAT is a leap. If he thinks the baby next to Mira is Brianna (as everyone does, including the caretaker), why would he carve a super secret signal to let the daughter he thinks is dead know he's going to look for her? If he thinks she's dead, he knows where she is. And if not... that's a really obscure clue.
Brianna suspects Conrad is right and asks the caretaker to pass on the message to the man if he ever comes back that she is looking for him. She also pays him to take care of the grave, and we are reminded once more how much better she is than everyone else because she is rich:
He stared at the large sum of money, amazed at her generosity.Brianna and Conrad leave, Brianna full of hope that her father is still alive.
And that is the entire seventeenth chapter, but I'm feeling pretty good, so let's keep charging on through this turd of a book! Whoo!
On the plane on the way back to the U.S., Brianna is haunted by the visit to her family. Not at how awful she was to everybody, but of "the coldness, the cruelty of her family." Which, I mean, yes, they did try to murder people, but she knew all about that going in. Or she should have. Sonya tried to warn her. What did she expect? That she would waltz in, confront them, and they'd crumble, repent, and become Christians immediately?
Actually, in a Rothdiener novel, that's not an unreasonable assumption.
Anyway, Brianna's also stressed about meeting up with Ethan.
The meeting would be a surprise for Ethan, but Brianna and Sonya surmised that would be the only way he would talk to her.WORST. IDEA. EVER.
Sheesh. Brianna is bad at making amends. If he doesn't want to talk to her, they can't make him talk to her, and surprising him with a visit from the person who ruined his life without his permission is not a very kind or Christlike thing to do. Also, whatever happened to all that (false) stuff about how he can't be within 500 feet of her or something? Did that ever get resolved? Is she going to stand outside his house and yell apologies in through the window?
Brianna muses on how she can't forgive her family, but she's asking Ethan to forgive her, and on the irony of it all.
They pull up in their rental van in front of Ethan's "dumpy trailer" in a "shoddy trailer park," so already we know that Ethan is a mess because he is not rich like Brianna is.
Brianna wiped away a single tear. “I must stay strong,” she whispered.I'm not sure I can do that without giggling. That action and line sound like... a parody of serious dramas.
Conrad offers to come in with her, but Brianna insists she must face this alone. Conrad tells her to keep her phone on and "press star" if she feels overwhelmed, and that will summon them. So I guess her speed dial number for Conrad is *.
Ethan is listening to her CD when she arrives, and she is certain that he wouldn't know she was Brianna Bays. After all, she's hidden her birthmark for the press! And Ethan would never have recognized her voice or the songs they wrote together or her face or anything! Just like if you put on a mask, you can be a superhero because nobody will know it's you. Who needs elaborate disguises when covering a corner of your face will keep your closest friends from recognizing you?
She knocks, Ethan comes to the door, and we get an unrelated memory:
Her mind was racing. She recalled when the boys came knocking on the door, Ethan would politely say, “Come back in ten years.” She smiled lightly at the memory, and then shook her head to help her focus.Conrad was into her when she was 17, so he did not wait ten years...
Ethan invites her into his home and is super sarcastic at her, but I think he's entitled to do that.
“My, you sure have become a beautiful woman. I always knew you would be. I had to fight those young boys off with a stick,” he said, swinging his arm pretending to be holding a stick.Because, yup, nobody can greet Brianna without first noting her appearance.
She is astonished that he recognizes her, but he points out, duh, he recognizes her voice and remembers writing those songs with her. He's not as stupid as she thought he'd be. He also makes an extremely snarky comment about not getting any royalties from the songs he helped her write, which is a pretty dang good point since she started off her entire career with a potential copyright lawsuit. (But then, as we've seen from Morgan in QfS, Rothdiener doesn't have a lot of interest in artistic copyright unless it benefits his Mary Sue. She can rip off anyone she wants, though.)
They both sit down, and like a second later he stands back up and walks over to her to stare at her cross necklace and touch her birthmark. Then he sits back down again. Then he stands back up and runs into the kitchen to get her some water, but she says no thank you and he sits back down again. Well, there's his exercise for the day.
Meanwhile, turns out ALL ETHAN'S KIDS HAVE TERRIBLE LIVES. Because they all lost their father and lived with Susan, who was materialistic and not really a Christian. But instead of being materialistic and shallow like she was, they all have lives right out of an after-school special. One boy joined a gang and died in a gang fight. Another boy became an alcoholic and died of alcohol poisoning. The girl got pregnant, had an abortion, ran away from home and became a drug addict.
Seriously, what happened? There's no reason his time in jail should have caused any of that, since they all went far away to live with Susan and her parents, who are all very image-conscious. I have an uncomfortable feeling that this book is trying to make a point about "when families split up it hurts the children," but usually when people say that, they don't mean "all of your children will die and be drug addicts." I wouldn't imagine they'd grow up to be Sunday school teachers or anything, but... even if Susan wasn't a very attentive mother, her parents were attentive grandparents, and they had plenty of support, both emotional and financial.
We then learn Susan is working at a convenience store in Oklahoma, which Ethan assumes is Brianna's fault as well, even though I have no idea how it would be because even if she lost her job at one place because of bad publicity, surely she could go somewhere else or work behind the scenes instead of being the model and the designer all the time -- there's no need for her public image to become a part of this at all, and certainly not after a couple years (if that) when the media died down.
But this is the other part of this book I hate -- it not only emphasizes that Brianna's Christianity makes her even more rich, beautiful, and deserving, but that those without Christianity will become poor, ugly, and be forever miserable. That's untrue and comes off as more than a little vindictive.
So let's leave these unpleasant revelations where they are and come back to them next week.