One of The New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year National Book Award Finalist Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize Finalist for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize A Best Book of 2019: Entertainment Weekly, The Washington Post, NPR, Kirkus, AV Club, Vanity Fair, Variety, Esquire, Jezebel, Real Simple, The New York Post, Town & Country, Barnes & Noble, Library Journal, CBC, BookPage, BookBub, Book Riot, USA Today National Best Seller "Splendidly imagined . . . Thrilling" --Simon Winchester"A genuine masterpiece" --Gary Shteyngart Spellbinding, moving--evoking a fascinating region on the other side of the world--this suspenseful and haunting story announces the debut of a profoundly gifted writer. One August afternoon, on the shoreline of the Kamchatka peninsula at the northeastern edge of Russia, two girls--sisters, eight and eleven--go missing. In the ensuing weeks, then months, the police investigation turns up nothing. Echoes of the disappearance reverberate across a tightly woven community, with the fear and loss felt most deeply among its women. Taking us through a year in Kamchatka, Disappearing Earth enters with astonishing emotional acuity the worlds of a cast of richly drawn characters, all connected by the crime: a witness, a neighbor, a detective, a mother. We are transported to vistas of rugged beauty--densely wooded forests, open expanses of tundra, soaring volcanoes, and the glassy seas that border Japan and Alaska--and into a region as complex as it is alluring, where social and ethnic tensions have long simmered, and where outsiders are often the first to be accused. In a story as propulsive as it is emotionally engaging, and through a young writer's virtuosic feat of empathy and imagination, this powerful novel brings us to a new understanding of the intricate bonds of family and community, in a Russia unlike any we have seen before.
For most of this novel, I wondered whether solving the mystery was even the point. I liked reading about the remote Kamchatka peninsula and its culture, as well as the people who experience all of the same joy, sadness, doubt, and fear as people everywhere. However, I wasn’t really invested in the characters who were sometimes interesting, and sometimes annoying or shallow. But Phillips won me over in the second to last chapter, when linkages between certain characters were made clear and the novel moved urgently to a satisfying conclusion.
I recommend this book for its unique structure more than the murder/crime angle.
I began the book thinking that it would be the story of how two plucky children survived the wilderness, or escaped something bad, an assumption aided by the book's cover. Then it appeared to be a collection of linked stories about life in Kamchatka and while interesting, didn't seem to fully justify the hype surrounding this book. But the penultimate chapter was just perfectly written, calling back to an earlier chapter, but telling its own story, that I suddenly saw the larger picture Phillips is creating here, and the final chapter pulling everything together into a unified whole. This is a very promising debut and I'm absolutely going to be reading what ever Julia Phillips writes next.
This books starts with two younge girls going missing in Kamchatka and the rest of the book covers the next year, with each chapter focussing on a different persons who have some link, in soe way, to the missing girls. During this we discosver the racism inherrent in the society, with the indigenous peoples of the peninsular being shunned and treated prroly by the authorities. This is most evident in the treatment of Lilia, an Even girl, a few years older than the two mssing girls, who vanished from her village 4 years previously. She was assumed to have run away and no more than perfunctory search was made.
The way the differnt people have changed their attitudes as a result of things changing is at the heart of the story. At the end the two mothers come together and they are at different stages of the hope/grief process, but there share a common sense of loss that no-one else can really understand. And just as Marina, the mother of the two girls sems to be comming to an acceptance, we reach the ;ast chapter. And then the author does something that I think is almost unforgiveable - she hints that this is all going to come out in the wash with a happy ending. The last chapter is clearly the older of the two girls telling a story to comfort the younger, while hearing goings on within the house an making reference to Lilia as also being in the house. The chances of missing children being found 11 months or 4 years later is almost nill to non-existant. It is almost nill after 3 days, let alone any longer. I'm not adverse to ahhpy endings, but they do need to rooted in reality, and this struck me as just being unrealistically too saccherine to be real. It's giving false hope, and that strikes me as unforgiveable.
It took a while for me to get into this books and style of story telling but had it ended 1 chapter shorted, I'd be giving it one star more.
Though I dont understand some of the connections I may have just overlooked them.
I have never read any stories about the indigenous people of northern Russia. Probably the race that crossed over the strait to Alaska many centuries ago.
A fine book. Couldn't put it down.
The writing was descriptive, and evoked a region unfamiliar to most. Evidently it is where this author carried out her Fulbright fellowship research, and she certainly made the most of it. Even though the lives of the indigenous people of this region were different, the similarities of love and loss and relationships made all the stories very relatable.
The nights Ksyusha spent in the tundra, when she was younger and braver and slept alone, when her world was clear, smelling of smoke and grasses, and thousands of reindeer passed her by."
Some people don’t care if you’re special. They will punish you anyway. Neighbors, for example, will report a girl, even a smart girl, with a girlfriend. The police will hurt you, if they get the chance.
It hurts too much to break your own heart out of stupidity, to leave a door unlocked or a child untended and return to discover that whatever you value most has disappeared. No. You want to be intentional about the destruction. Be a witness. You want to watch how your life will shatter.
The raindrops made noises like a thousand parting lips.
I learned so much about the Kamchatka peninsula-- and was led to discover even more information through additional reading. The setting, containing three active volcanoes within sight of the major town of Petropavlovsk, is stark and memorable. Traveling through a fire-ravaged wooded area, the mother of the two missing girls looks out the car window and sees her grief transformed into landscape: "The long tracks of dead forest looked like thousands of bones pushed up from their graves."
As the story runs its course from one person to the next-- all connected by the abduction of the two little girls-- we learn how the area has changed since the collapse of the USSR, how poaching has affected the ecology, how the indigenous peoples and LGBT are treated, and how difficult it can be for native people to live outside their own culture.
So far, I've concentrated on how much I learned from reading this book. Now it's time to concentrate on the story itself. Since each successive narrator is connected in some way to the missing girls, the sisters were never far from my mind. The scene describing their abduction was chilling, and as the months passed, any hope I had for their safe return died an agonizing death. There was what I call a "light bulb" moment when I knew the identity of the kidnapper, but of course, everyone in the book ignored it. And the ending? I can't decide whether to call it "jaw-dropping" or a "punch in the gut." Totally unexpected.
Disappearing Earth is an amazing piece of storytelling, one that I highly recommend you to try.
I will say, that all the controversy here on LT about American Dirt and its authenticity made me aware that I was reading a book set in a remote, relatively unknown and foreign location, with several different and competing ethnic populations, all experiencing the effects of the dissolution of the former Soviet Union. I knew nothing about the author, who is apparently American, but the end note states she spent a year on the Kamchatka Peninsula as a Fulbright Scholar. The book felt real and true to me, but I have no idea what perspective someone native to the region would have.
3 1/2 stars
The second is that each chapter is told from a different point of view with all of the characters having some relationship to the two young girls who are kidnapped in the first chapter. Most of the chapters deal with women who are suffering in various ways. From the loss of children, a cancer diagnosis, the death of a husband, where none of these situations are resolved...except for the last chapter where we obliquely learn the fate of three missing daughters.
This is a well written book. But it was really tough to read in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.
In the unique format of this book, each subsequent chapter is told a month later from a different female character’s perspective.
I loved the vivid descriptions of this remote region which is so difficult to access that it’s almost a locked room mystery. This story is not just set in an exotic location. It is one that could not have happened anywhere else.
There are Interesting universal social themes. Characters explore the differences between Kamchatka native people and city people – a native girl went missing previously with little police interest.
I felt this was a fresh re-imagining of the mystery novel genre.