Doller, Trish. Off the Map. (Beck Sisters #3) St. Martin’s Press, 2023. 320 pp. ISBN 9781250809490 $16.99
Though not a Beck sister, Carla is Beck-adjacent, working with Anna at the pirate-themed bar in Florida that Anna skipped out of to sail the world in her dead fiance’s boat in Float Plan. Now Anna is getting married to Keane in Ireland, and Carla is going to be the maid of honor. Eamon, Keane’s brother, has been tasked with picking her up from the airport, but instead, invites her to meet him at the Confession Box, a tiny hole in the wall bar. She taps Eamon as her fake boyfriend the moment he walks in, kissing him to deflect unwanted advances from another barfly, and drinks turn into dinner, which leads into making love at his apartment.
A world traveler, Carla regales Eamon with stories of her single dad, a history teacher with summers off who took his little girl to nearly every state park in the country to stave off loneliness. Eamon has always longed to backpack but feels obligated to do what his family expects of him. With several days before the wedding, Carla talks Eamon into a little car camping and sightseeing. There’s a deadline to their fling, and the best man/maid of honor hookup is totally cliche, but this story works.
Like other novels in the series, this is highly character driven, and the journey motif is physical and geographical as well as internal. Carla’s dad is suffering from dementia, and she hasn’t been home to see him in six years–at his encouragement. She lives her life by a traveler’s code he ingrained in her from a young age, like “if it doesn’t fit in your backpack, you don’t need it,” and there is no such thing as being lost. After meeting Eamon, though, she begins to question her rolling stone gathers no moss philosophy and mourns that she met The One at a time in her life when she still doesn’t want to settle down. She also recognizes she might not want to be a seasonal bartender at retirement age. She breaks it off with Eamon… and goes home to see her dad, where his second wife and caretaker is all too happy to get a break for a few days. Details about caring for someone in mental decline are sensitive and authentic. Fans of the series may find this is little lighter and a little faster paced, but very satisfying nonetheless. Making a choice to forge a new path might be the plan, after all, and Carla may not be as off the map as she thinks.
I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #OffTheMap from #NetGalley.