Book review: Disappearing Earth — by Julia Phillips

(Knopf Publishing Group)
The scene is set — a city on the edge of the Kamchatka peninsula at the northeastern edge of Russia, principal characters sketched and grouped by family, the short summer coming to a close, a spooky tale of a town literally destroyed in one wave — and two little girls, sisters, go missing. Who saw what happened, and is their memory accurate or fallible? Blame is assigned to the mother, for letting them walk alone, and a practice that was already frowned upon is instantly forbidden by all good mothers. It takes a series of interlocking events and people to uncover what could be the crucial missing piece, and point the investigators in the right direction. By thoughtfully and brilliantly portraying the peoples that inhabit Kamchatka, a mountainous region unreachable by land from Russia, through a sometimes startling series of revelations and nuances of character and actions — so many truths in people’s behaviors — Julia Phillips has created a palpable sense of place and culture, with human nature informing an immensely absorbing and chilling book. Surprisingly, given the high level of craft and vision that went into it, this is Phillips debut novel. Her incredible insight has built a bridge between cultures, exposing us all as intricately linked.
— Reviewed by Jenny Lyons of The Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury.
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