"One August afternoon, on the shoreline of the Kamchatka peninsula at the northeastern edge of Russia, two sisters, eight and eleven, go missing. In the ensuing 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. Connected by the crime: a witness, a neighbor, a detective, a mother. Social and ethnic tensions have long simmered in the region, and outsiders are often the first to be accused..."--Provided by publisher.
The reader also learns of another young woman who has disappeared. At eighteen, Lilia was very petite and looked much younger. Her mother, an indigenous Russian, believes she became involved in some sort of trouble and has been killed. Various acquaintances believe she has left the area due to her wild reputation. The disappearances seemingly have nothing to do with each other.
At first the Russian police appear to be actively following leads for the young girl. The disappearance of Lilia, however, is different - only rumors spread and nothing official is undertaken. The reader soon becomes familiar with the setting of Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. Nothing is repaired, immigrants arrive causing suspicion, plumbing doesn't work, alcohol is everywhere, and there is constant pull between the old that some want to return to and the new which the younger people accept.
This is an interesting book on many levels. The portrayal of the lives of many of the characters presents an everyday look at life on this far eastern part of Russia. The culture of many indigenous peoples is becoming modernized and melded into the culture of the times. (Young university students learning ethnic dances, etc.). Gender roles are almost unchanged as many young women struggle to raise their families without the emotional and sometimes economic support of fathers. Family structures are shaken. Prejudice underscores everything.
A cultural "fair" brings many of these characters together and out of clear circumstance, the perpetrator is discovered. The story is a mystery and a rare look at a part of Russia I didn't even know existed. Great writing.
I was thankful for the list of characters in the front and the map of the area. The names are very unfamiliar and without that, it would have been difficult to keep characters straight.
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.
The second is that each chapter is told from a different point of view with all of the characters
This is a well written book. But it was really tough to read in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.
I learned so much about the Kamchatka peninsula-- and was led to discover even more
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.
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
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.
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 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
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
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
A fine book. Couldn't put it down.
As you wonder what happened to the missing girls, the author takes you on an exploration into all the different scenarios that explore the human condition where we attach ourselves to drama. This brought in many characters that left you wondering if they were victims, perpetrators or just bystanders. The diverging stories required me to refer to the list of characters. (Which you know if the author had to put the list at the beginning of the book - it will be a complex character book.) With each story I became frustrated as I attached myself to a character‚Äôs storyline (chapter) and soon found the author ending the chapter with a wistful ‚Äúlesson learned (or not)‚Äù and subsequently moving on to what "as the reader" I hoped would be more progress on the initial question - "what happened to the girls?".
Despite some of the "frustration" after completing this book - I give Disappearing Earth 4 stars .
The author‚Äôs writing is very good and it was interesting reading about the intwining of old, new, and evolving native cultures set in a remote place that is an important strategic stronghold of Japan and Russia. The storyline has a poetic ending that sort of ties it all together - enough to where you probably will want to reread the story again. Does this make a great book - or just another book that has too many frustrating literary devices and points to make it culturally relevant. The read is worth making the decision yourself.
The stories have a couple of characteristics in common. The first is that the narrators of the various stories are all women. Second, a good portion of the characters are Even or Koryak, Siberian tribal people who are referred to as “natives”. I read a lot, but I don't ever remember reading about the indigenous Russians in any other novel. I consulted Wikipedia often so that I could understand what the Even culture was, and to see examples of traditional dances.
I was never sure where Disappearing Earth was heading. The stories themselves are individual slices of life and human drama. Characters from various stories begin to converge as the book progresses. I wasn't sure I was going to like this book when I first started, but I think it's the kind of story that stays with you after you read it. It's very well written with sense of place and depth of characters that creates a complex and memorable story.
The final chapter returns to the abduction. Without revealing its ending, it was handled quite satisfactorily.