Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips

For fans of Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena and Téa Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife: the kidnapping of two small girls on a remote peninsula in Russia sets in motion an evocative, moving, searingly original debut novel by a dazzling young writer.

One August afternoon, on the shoreline of the Kamchatka peninsula at the northeastern tip of Russia, two girls – sisters, ages eight and eleven – go missing. The police investigation that follows turns up nothing. In the girls’ tightly-woven community, everyone must grapple with the loss. But the fear and danger of their disappearance is felt most profoundly among the women of this isolated place.

Taking us one chapter per month across a year on Kamchatka, this powerful novel connects the lives of characters changed by the sisters’ abduction: a witness, a neighbor, a detective, a mother. Theirs is an ethnically diverse population in which racial tensions simmer, and so-called “natives” are often suspected of the worst. As the story radiates from the peninsula’s capital city to its rural north, we are brought to places of astonishing beauty: densely wooded forests, open expanses of tundra, soaring volcanoes, and glassy seas.

Disappearing Earth is a multifaceted story of the intimate lives of women – their vulnerabilities and perils, their desires and dreams. It speaks to the complex yet enduring bonds of community as it offers startlingly vivid portraits of people reaching out to one another and, sometimes, reaching back to save each other.

​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

Duffy’s Thoughts On Disappearing Earth

This was a strange, almost haunting read for me. Im a big fan of fast-paced suspense, true crime and plot twisty, heart-pounding thrillers. Disappearing Earth is none of these, instead, it had me thinking about crime and the victims of crime from a completely different perspective. There is not just perpetrator and victim, the ripples of such a horrific crime reach far and wide into a community.

Phillips explores the effect of the abduction on those in the little town. Girls in the same class as the two missing girls are more apprehensive and their parents lock down their freedoms. Suspicions of newcomers and ‘non-locals’ begin to fester as this small community searches for clues and answers which are seemingly not there. Tensions rise in the small community and a family remains in turmoil at the loss of their little girls. What happened to them? Are they alive? Are they dead? Are they safe?

Disappearing Earth is such a delicate, nuanced, layered book and Phillips takes time to dissect these seemingly simple lives to reveal complex human connections. You won’t find fast building pace, or shocking twists and turns at breakneck speed, but you will spend time in a small, tight-knit community rocked by something terrible and dark.

Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips
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