Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips
With her debut novel, Disappearing Earth (Knopf, $26.95), Julia Phillips shows she is an author to watch. With a surprising ease and deftness, Phillips transports the reader to the rugged and frozen terrain of the Kamchatka Peninsula in northeastern Russia. One August afternoon the Golosovsky sisters, age eight and ten, go missing. Each beautifully written chapter of the ensuing story takes place over the course of one month during the year after their disappearance. This story is not your usual mystery thriller. It is instead an examination of the ripples, at times barely noticeable, a tragedy can leave on a seemingly tranquil community. Each chapter is told from the point of view of a woman, most of whom don’t have a deep connection to the Golosovsky family. Yet each has been touched by this mystery in however small a way. As each woman’s story unfolds, Phillips reminds us that with every ripple there is a preceding point of impact. While the sisters’ disappearance contributes, Phillips shows that the real impact comes from the realities of life women face on the Kamchatka Peninsula: violence, betrayal, discrimination, mistrust, poverty, and physical hardship form the true tragedy here. This is an amazing story that will leave you yearning for more.