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Disappearing Earth: A novel by Julia…
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Disappearing Earth: A novel (2019)

by Julia Phillips

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1738105,531 (3.97)24
"Splendidly imagined . . . Thrilling" —Simon Winchester"A genuine masterpiece" —Gary ShteyngartSpellbinding, 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.… (more)

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The novel begins with the abduction of two sisters, eleven and five, from a beach in the city of Petropavlovsk, the administrative centre of Kamchatka peninsula. The chapter is told from the point of view of the big sister, bored with summer and having to watch her little sister. Each subsequent chapter follows a character, often connected to the investigation, or interested in the search for the children, but the focus is on what is important in their lives. An indigenous woman from the isolated town of Esso struggles to find her footing at university in the big city, torn between her enjoyment in joining a dance troupe and loyalty to her boyfriend back home. A woman who has learned to trust no one loses her dog. A teenage girl is faced with being ostracized from her group of friends. A woman struggling with being stuck home caring for an infant develops fantasies about the crew of foreign workers working on the building site across the road.

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. ( )
  RidgewayGirl | Aug 17, 2019 |
A very strange and interesting structure for telling a story. Taking an enormous cast of characters and weaving their stories together to a very satisfying climax made this book a real winner.
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. ( )
  Alphawoman | Jul 31, 2019 |
I didn't get the ending. I can't figure out who kidnapped the two girls. ( )
  dimajazz | Jul 28, 2019 |
More like 3.75 stars. I had a Dickens of a time getting through this book, not because of the writing but because of life! This unique story takes place on Kamchatka, a region that I know little about, and Phillips captures life there wonderfully. The multitude of characters made for challenge in tracking them, and the separate chapters, which are really short stories, made for the reader to constantly have to find their place in the larger story. ( )
  Oregonpoet | Jul 12, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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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.
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