Where Echoes Die / Courtney Gould / Book Review

Beck Birsching has only one destination in mind: Backravel, Arizona. Everything comes back to Backravel. Backravel caused her parents to split. Backravel helped her family fall apart. Backravel left her the only one in charge of her little sister and her ailing mother. Backravel was her mother's obsession, and now that her mother's dead, Beck has nothing else. Nothing but Backravel.

And she's never even been there.

Their father might think Beck and her sister are on vacation with friends, but the desert has been calling them. Backravel has been calling Beck. She needs to know what, exactly, had her mother obsessed all those years. But on the surface, Backravel seems like any other small town. Friendly people, walkable streets, and... no cars. And no cemeteries. And the ruins of an old military complex. And up on the hill, the shining beacon of Backravel, sits a "treatment center," though the locals won't tell Beck what the treatment is for. Something's off in Backravel, and Beck's going to finish what her mother started. She's going to find the answers her mother couldn't let go. 


This book was fairly entertaining, I guess, and it certainly surpassed my expectations. It definitely wasn't what I expected it would be in any way. Even so, I found my attention wandering. I'd skim passages inadvertently and have to come back to reread. And that's never a good thing. 


  • Foreboding: One thing that Courtney Gould really nails right from the beginning is a sense of overwhelming foreboding. Everything feels unsettling, from the littlest details in the setting to the stilted nature of the (really very normal) dialogue. These sisters have done everything wrong. They've driven out to the desert in a rattly old car (nerve-wracking enough!). On top of that, they've lied to their father about it. They've lied to their AirBNB host, too. They know things feel off in this town, but they don't stick together. And everything feels oh-so-suspicious. We know something's going to go wrong. It's all just a matter of when. This book is full of the classic horror movie type of fear and foreboding. 
  • Shifty Narrator: Not only are these girls making bad choices in unsettling places while surrounded by untrustworthy characters, there's also a particularly strong sense that we can't trust Beck either. She has gaps in her memory, bits of time that are gone or go by too quickly. This isn't a new phenomenon for her, either. She's experienced these... lapses before. She's also obsessed with Backravel, particularly focused and definitely not telling the truth to her sister, the person closest to her in the world. If Beck isn't telling her sister the whole truth, why would she be telling us? We can't trust her senses. We can't trust her to be truthful. We can't trust her at all. 
  • Desert Despair: There's just something about the desert that makes it a great setting for an unsettling tale. Perhaps it's the barren nature of it, devoid of life. The desert itself proves a harsh and unforgiving landscape. Adding in elements of fear and foreboding only enhance that. This particular patch of desert landscape comes with old military ruins, a warfare test site full of bones, and a strangely thriving little town right amidst it all. And those vibes can't be beat. 


  • Slow: This is one of the things that occurred to me again and again throughout the story. There's a lot of great groundwork. There's an incredible amount of buildup. There's not a lot of payoff to make it all worth it. It takes too long to get anywhere good. I found myself losing focus, skimming, coming back to read the same passage over again. It was a bit of a slog. It was a disappointment. 
  • Vague: Again, there's a lot of buildup, and then... nothing's really explained. There are a lot of gaps, a lot of places to fill in and suppose. There's a lot of time to fill in these gaps, too. So by the time the "reveal" happens, I had already put some pieces into place. I had a vague picture of what was happening, and I was ready for the whole picture to come into focus. But it didn't. Because the extent of the "revelation" was what I had already put together. Which was, all in all, rather vague. Nothing is ever really, fully explained, and so the ultimate payoff doesn't happen. In a book that's more science fiction than it is anything else, to have none of the "science," none of the explanation to back it all up, was such an incredible disappointment. 
  • Secrets: I was so incredibly frustrated with Beck. She's so close to her sister. She's done everything to protect her sister, to keep them together when their mom went off the rails. And yet she really thought she could drag her sister all the way out to the desert, to the place of their mother's obsession, without telling her the truth? Without giving her a reason why? This felt like a ridiculous decision and a very stupid move. The ramifications were, therefore, frustrating. 



Fans of Rory Power's Burn Our Bodies Down will appreciate this unsettling slice of Americana. Those who loved Rory Power's Wilder Girls will dive right into this not-quite-right town of secrets and experiments. 


Publisher: Wednesday Books
Date: June 20, 2023
Series: N/A
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Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


  1. I have definitely had times when a book hasn’t kept my interest enough to keep my mind from wandering. I always appreciate a critical review so thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one.

  2. Pacing is very important, and it's too bad this one was so slow that it made you skim through some of it. Thanks for sharing your honest review.

  3. Ah yeah, I hate it when I have to reread pages. I usually end up giving up on the book in that case!

    Corinne x

  4. It’s a shame there wasn’t enough payoff for the slow build up!

  5. Not really my sort of book, to be honest, and it sounds like it wasn't that riveting either, which is a shame given the premise!


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