Sunday, July 12, 2020

Book Review: Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips

I hadn't read a book club book in a while and I'd heard really good things about this one so I was excited to read it. But it was nothing like I expected.

It's set on this obscure peninsula in far, far Western Russia, past Siberia. Two young girls go missing and are missing for a long time. The story is told from multiple points of view, never returning to the same narrator again, some directly involved in the crime, and some only tangential. It takes quite a ways into the story before you start seeing overlaps and connections between the characters. The story is described as a mystery, but it's really not. In that there's no detective who solves anything, and there are no real clues until one at the very end. It's more just the story of a region which is affected by a terrible crime and how that plays out. Oh, and there was another girl, an Indigenous teenager, who went missing a couple of years ago, but the police assume she ran away (impossible in this remote area--no one can get in our out without leaving a trace as you'd have to go through a checkpoint, an airport, or a port.) so they don't look for her. Did she not run away? Is it related?

The book is a fascinating look at cultures we're very unfamiliar with, and yet in other ways it seems like exactly what we know. It's a mash-up of cultures in a way we often don't see in the United States. The various Indigenous peoples and the way they do or don't mesh with the surrounding Russians, provided an extra layer of intrigue and interest.

It was slow going at first, and at middle, and it read like a series of short stories (which I personally don't like) but in the end, I'm glad I read it.

I bought this book from Bookmarks, an independent bookstore in Winston-Salem, NC.

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