Disappearing Earth

Disappearing Earth

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 – sis...

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Title:Disappearing Earth
Author:Julia Phillips
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Edition Language:English

Disappearing Earth Reviews

  • Tammy

    Kamchatka. My only knowledge of Kamchatka was that it is the name of cheap vodka my friends and I drank during our salad days. We re-named it “coming atcha” when we became employed and could afford premium vodka. Actually, the Kamchatka peninsula is located in the far east of Russia and is isolated by water and mountains. Kamchatka is a land of extremes from tundra to volcanoes to verdant forests and the descriptions of the peninsula are jaw dropping. I'm not sure of the reason but I was startle

    Kamchatka. My only knowledge of Kamchatka was that it is the name of cheap vodka my friends and I drank during our salad days. We re-named it “coming atcha” when we became employed and could afford premium vodka. Actually, the Kamchatka peninsula is located in the far east of Russia and is isolated by water and mountains. Kamchatka is a land of extremes from tundra to volcanoes to verdant forests and the descriptions of the peninsula are jaw dropping. I'm not sure of the reason but I was startled that the indigenous people, the Evens, are treated with disdain by Caucasian Russians. More than likely this is the result of yet another knowledge gap. Anyway, it is in Kamchatka that two little girls go missing. Despite the premise, this is not a thriller. It reads almost like a series of interconnected short stories, that is, almost but not quite. The disappearance of these girls has a ripple effect throughout the community over the course of a year. Six degrees of separation, indeed. This is a staggering work of originality, insight and depth.

  • karen

    NOW AVAILABLE!!!

    this is one of those rare perfect books. the fact that it’s a debut only makes it more impressive, and no matter what this author writes next, i will be on it immediately.

    i was fortunate enough to stumble upon a free arc of this, thinking-to-self, ‘this looks like it could be good,’ and then when i saw all the high praise it was receiving in its early reviews, i decided to bump it up the old arc-stack and see what all the fuss was about.

    lemme tell you, the fuss is earned.

    it take

    NOW AVAILABLE!!!

    this is one of those rare perfect books. the fact that it’s a debut only makes it more impressive, and no matter what this author writes next, i will be on it immediately.

    i was fortunate enough to stumble upon a free arc of this, thinking-to-self, ‘this looks like it could be good,’ and then when i saw all the high praise it was receiving in its early reviews, i decided to bump it up the old arc-stack and see what all the fuss was about.

    lemme tell you, the fuss is earned.

    it takes place on russia’s kamchatka peninsula, and at its center is the disappearance of two little girls; sisters eight and eleven, who get into a stranger’s car and… vanish.

    each chapter that follows carries the story forward a month - from the girls’ abduction in august to the following july, and each is told from a different character’s perspective. the disappearance worms its way into every chapter, but is usually only used to season the stories - how the situation affected different people who live in the area, most of whom had no direct connection with the girls themselves, and each chapter is gripping and fully-realized enough to stand alone as a short story. 

    it’s such an original way to tell a missing-kids narrative; using that same structure i love in

    - a smalltown short story cycle that both is and isn’t a novel, but this one has more specific touchpoints, and as time passes, the impact of the tragedy shifts the way any sensational news story shifts with the passing of time and proximity, slipping into cautionary tale or local legend, dredging up memories of earlier disappearances, giving way to ’where were you when…’ recollections, becoming a different kind of collective reference point.

    most multiple POV books will pick a handful of characters and alternate between them, and it was a great moment of realization for me, about three chapters in, when i clocked to the, “oh, so we’re just not going to go back to that character’s POV at all, wow.” at first, i was a little disappointed, because i had become invested in particular voices, but with each chapter, i found myself making a whole new investment, and once i started approaching this more as a short story cycle, i appreciated it even more, because that’s just so freaking hard to pull off, and she does it remarkably well. characters do pop up again, but seen through someone else’s eyes, and these transitions and the recurring motifs are handled beautifully.

    i admit to being a very ignorant person when it comes to culture and geography, and this book introduced me to a region i knew absolutely nothing about; phillips’ descriptions of the landscape, ethnic makeup, history, and social fabric of kamchatka was illuminating and engrossing and - without a drop of hyperbole on my part - masterful.

    i loved this book so very much. her writing is flawless, the build is rich and textured, the ending is satisfying. my only (oh-so-minor) complaint is i wish she hadn’t dropped that mic in the final paragraph, because we knew without it being pointed out and i think it would have been more elegant to

    call attention to it so explicitly.

    but i mean, really - that’s not even a couple’s spat in the love i have for this book.

    it is not to be missed.

    ***************************

    stunned.

    a brilliant, brilliant debut. review to come.

  • Emily May

    . There is a missing persons mystery at the centre of the book, but no one should go into this expecting a typical myste

    . There is a missing persons mystery at the centre of the book, but no one should go into this expecting a typical mystery. Or a typical anything at all.

    I love it when an author tries something different and it just

    . Here, Phillips begins on the remote Kamchatka peninsula, in the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, with two young girls accepting a ride home from a stranger and then going missing. The need to discover the girls' fate offers an immediate emotional pull, but their disappearance hovers mostly in the background for the many different stories that follow it.

    And

    contains just that--

    . It can be read almost like a short story collection, with all stories alluding to or being affected by the missing girls. Phillips introduces us to many different characters, each one completely distinct, complex and sympathetic.

    The author looks at small town fears and suspicions. The unusual and effective choice to tell each chapter from a different point of view allows for a bigger picture of this place to develop, as well as an intimate portrait of all the characters. It reminds me of

    in its scope and beauty, and a bit of Orange's

    in its interlinking but separate stories.

    . I love books with a strong sense of place, and I feel like this can create a mood which permeates the entire novel. I should add that here this is probably at least in part due to my complete ignorance of this area of the world, both its geography and its customs. So to me it was a very new experience. I am curious what Russian readers will think.

    Through so many different perspectives, we see how the disappearance of the girls affects everyone, and how this changes over time. The initial panic and fear of outsiders, the comparison to other disappearances, and the gradual fading from memory. I also found it very interesting how the author managed to comment on so many different issues - post-Soviet society, racism against natives, and homophobia, for example - without it becoming a book about said issues. The exploration of all these things rises organically out of the characters living their lives, and is never heavy-handed, preachy or judgemental.

    It's a beautiful smart read for fans of "literary thrillers" and a thoughtful meditation on culture, race, sexuality, and small town politics in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. Between this and

    , I am really falling in love with these complex character dramas with a mystery/thriller backdrop. I always used to say my favourite thrillers were those that focused on the characters and were rewarding even if you figured out the reveal. Well, I guess I found the perfect kind of book for me.

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  • Debra

    Two sisters ages eight and eleven go missing on the Kamchatka peninsula. Boy did I want to yell at my book "No, no, no, no, no!" during the first story. UGH! The police are quickly called to investigate but find nothing - no clues, no evidence, etc. They are missing without a trace.

    This book spans the course of a year with each chapter being another month after the girls go missing. Each chapter is also about a new character. The characters have had their lives changed in some way due to the gir

    Two sisters ages eight and eleven go missing on the Kamchatka peninsula. Boy did I want to yell at my book "No, no, no, no, no!" during the first story. UGH! The police are quickly called to investigate but find nothing - no clues, no evidence, etc. They are missing without a trace.

    This book spans the course of a year with each chapter being another month after the girls go missing. Each chapter is also about a new character. The characters have had their lives changed in some way due to the girl’s disappearance. Some being a witness, a detective, a customs officer, a student, a woman whose sister went missing, etc. The final chapter is the girl's mother. As the book suggests this book shows the lives of women (and those in their lives) who have been touched in some way due to the girl’s disappearance.

    I found this to be a fast read. Due in part mainly to the fact that the chapters read like short stories and it was easy to go through them. While reading about the lives of those in the community, I had a nagging thought...what happened to those girls? I really enjoyed how the stories were connected even if only by a small thread. The connections are there. Plus, the writing was beautiful. Hats off to the Author for her unique and enjoyable story telling. I found myself enjoying each story/chapter a little bit more than the last.

    Plus, the ending! That is all that I will say. Very enjoyable book which was very original and captivating. I have been getting annoyed lately with books that remind me of other books. Reading this was like a breath of fresh air. This could have been a mystery about two missing girls, but it became so much more. Everything comes together in a very seamless manner.

    Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.

  • Ann-Marie

    I keep rewriting my review for this book. I cannot get it right. I don't think I ever will, so I will stop trying.

    I will just say this: Two little girls disappear without a trace one day in Kamchatka, a Russian peninsula near Alaska. The police mount a search, but after months with no clues, they are forced to give up.

    Julia Phillips paints what has to be a bleak, unforgiving area of the world and gives it light, music, color and life.

    Her characters fit. They belong. They are part of what she

    I keep rewriting my review for this book. I cannot get it right. I don't think I ever will, so I will stop trying.

    I will just say this: Two little girls disappear without a trace one day in Kamchatka, a Russian peninsula near Alaska. The police mount a search, but after months with no clues, they are forced to give up.

    Julia Phillips paints what has to be a bleak, unforgiving area of the world and gives it light, music, color and life.

    Her characters fit. They belong. They are part of what she is describing so well, community.

    The only other thing I can think to say is "Disappearing Earth" reminded me of "Snow Falling on Cedars." That is the kind of writer Phillips is.

    I received this book free from Alfred A. Knopf Publishers and Goodreads in exchange for an honest review.

  • Melissa Crytzer Fry

    When I read the jacket copy for this book, I assumed it was a “who done it,” as the description talked about an ongoing police investigation. I don’t generally gravitate toward missing persons/abduction-type stories; but this is where I think the jacket copy is misleading.

    The jumping-off point for this book

    the disappearance of two girls and its impact on the community. And as the book description states, the novel focuses on “the intimate lives of a cast of richly drawn, interconnected chara

    When I read the jacket copy for this book, I assumed it was a “who done it,” as the description talked about an ongoing police investigation. I don’t generally gravitate toward missing persons/abduction-type stories; but this is where I think the jacket copy is misleading.

    The jumping-off point for this book

    the disappearance of two girls and its impact on the community. And as the book description states, the novel focuses on “the intimate lives of a cast of richly drawn, interconnected characters.” I’m not sure how interconnected these characters really feel - or just how much of a role the girls' disappearance truly played in their storylines. So, for me, this novel read as a series of short stories which connect mostly on a thematic level. What does that mean to the reader? It means this literary novel will give you

    to chew on and digest. Themes about the roles of women, the impact of the Berlin Wall's fall in Russia, and female and cultural oppression are prevalent. Lots to consider in this relatively small book!

    The author shines in her depiction of Russia’s tundra and volcanic backdrops, and does so with gorgeous, sensory writing. And she is adept at getting into the emotional hearts and minds of her characters with brevity

    beautiful metaphorical imagery. Some examples:

    AND

    I would recommend this book to readers who appreciate literary fiction, character-driven fiction and short stories. This author is talented! Many thanks to my book angel, who put this well-written novel into my hands in advance of publication!

  • شيماء ✨

    This book is genuinely unlike anything that I've ever read, and altogether triumphant. I highly,

    recommend you guys add this book to your TBR!

  • Chelsea Humphrey

    Wow. It's been a hot minute since a debut novel created such a deep well of emotion in me, so much so that I am shocked that

    Wow. It's been a hot minute since a debut novel created such a deep well of emotion in me, so much so that I am shocked that

    is not written by a seasoned author. It seems to me that a quiet buzz has grown around this book; I hadn't heard of it before, but all at once I saw glowing review after glowing review roll in, while also finding it placed prominently in our local Barnes and Noble. After seeing it newly placed on the shelf at the library, I decided to grab it before someone else did and jump on the hype train to see what all the fuss was about. I'm thrilled that I did, because I've been in somewhat of a reading funk, and this was exactly the type of story I needed to focus my mind where I want it to be.

    If you read the synopsis, it informs you that this is a story involving the disappearance of two young girls in a remote part of Russia, but the real gold here is the ripple effect of how this event disturbs the lives of a large cast of characters. (Don't worry, there's a handy list at the beginning of the book that I referred to with each passing chapter, and only adds to the charm of this form of storytelling.) If you're looking for a fast paced thriller or a police procedural focusing on the kidnapping, that's not what this story is, but it offers something far more valuable and insightful. We do get some answers by the end of the book, but the beauty of this tale is that the disappearance is simultaneously at the forefront and background, as it is the driving factor of the choices that these townspeople make over the following calendar year, but it also doesn't take flashy center stage as to allow the reader to connect with each narrator along the way.

    One of the strongest aspects of this book is its ability to create a strong sense of place, to the point that the setting and atmospheric descriptions are just as much characters of the story as the people we hear from.

    is a slow-burning character study, but it never felt dull or boring. I found it best to read a few sections per evening, take some time to ponder, and either alternate with another book or simply wait to pick this back up the following day. If you're looking for a unique read, one that is reminiscent of literary fiction without pretense or snobbery, look no further. Highly recommended, and I simply cannot wait to see what the author decides to regale us with next!

  • Diane S ☔

    DnF at 40% Wanted to like this but I'm just not connecting with the story. Two you g girls go missing. Each succeeding chapter covers a month since they are gone. Each chapter also introduces new characters, whose life has been marginally impacted by this tragedy. The problem is not only that I was bored, which I was, but that I wasn't taken by any of these characters, just didn't care about them.

  • Tatiana

    I do wish people would read contemporary Russian literature instead of this Russia fanfic which doesn’t evoke Russia in any way. May I suggest

    for example? Imagine if I tried to write a book about American soul after leaving in the USA for 2 years?

    P.S. Herring again? Goodness, why?

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