Tag Archives: Trish Doller

Off the Map by Trish Doller

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Off the Map by Trish Doller

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.

Float Plan by Trish Doller

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Float Plan by Trish Doller

Doller, Trish. Float Plan. St. Martin’s Press, 2021. 272 pp. ISBN 9781250767943. $16.99

*****

Instead of showing up for Thanksgiving dinner, Anna makes a run through the grocery store for limes and a flashlight, dried beans and rice, playing cards and boxed milk: shipboard essentials for going away to sea for “awhile.” Ten months into her healing from the loss of her fiance by suicide, Anna is eloping from her life to take the trip of a lifetime through the Caribbean in the boat Ben restored, on the trip they had planned to take together. He may not have a fully fleshed out float plan, just a final destination of Trinidad, to a beach where they’d planned to marry, and a map of ports of call between Fort Lauderdale and the Bahamas. She quickly realizes her limitations and hires on the more seasoned sailor Keane to help her navigate the islands. They form a compelling partnership as Anna learns to navigate both the sailboat and her grief. Along they way, they pick up a stray dog, Keane’s brother joins them for a while, they spent Christmas and New Years in the Bahamas.

Anna’s journey and resiliency are raw and imperfect, the characterizations nuanced, and the author doesn’t shy award from tough topics–Ben’s goodbye letter to Anna prefaces the story; Keane, disabled from an accident, has his own doubts and demons to overcome but is a decent and good man, sensitive, kind, supportive, and honest. Details like Anna’s mother’s German-accented English, the dolphins (famed for assisting humans in times of need) that accompany Anna out of the harbor at the start of her journey, and the geography of the Florida coastline are vivid. Descriptions of the design, vibe, food, people and culture of the various islands Anna and Keane visit bring the novel to life. The writing is masterful; sentences like “his mouth is bracketed by disapproval” convey emotion without overstating. Keane often speaks in proverbs, telling Anna the things she needs to hear to keep going: sometimes you have to throw out the map; what we need at present is not to let fear rule the day. At some point, Anna realizes that Keane is the person Ben was trying to be: not just a man in motion, but a man with direction. I don’t know that I’d call this a slow burn book, but the pacing is perfect for the romantic element.

Doller touches on faith lightly, in several conversations about God. Keane is Irish Catholic and finds a church when their shore leave coincides with Sundays. and at one point, Anna wonders if having faith would have saved Ben; all we know is struggled with depression for a long time.

I read this over a year ago, and didn’t review it at the time; a year and half later, it’s sticking with me and I even have quoted it: “the stages of grief are not linear. They are random and unpredictable, folding back on themselves until you begin mourning all over again.” So true, so evocative. Keane tells Anna he understands loss and reassures her that eventually, “You’ll start building a new house beside the ruins of the old.”

Anna’s sister Rachel and niece Maisie are referenced several times; read the The Suite Spot for Rachel’s story, and to get a glimpse of Anna and Keane and Queenie and their happiness post-Float Plan.

I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #FloatPlan from #NetGalley.