Emily May's Reviews > Disappearing Earth

Disappearing Earth by Julia  Phillips
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it was amazing
bookshelves: mystery-thriller, arc, 2019
Recommended to Emily May by: karen

What answers could Alla Innokentevna have for her? Marina might ask what it was like to see your child turn thirteen, or fifteen, or graduate from high school. How it felt to know, and not just suspect, that if you had been a better parent, more attentive, more responsible, then your baby would not be gone today. How to go on.

Disappearing Earth is quite an extraordinary novel. 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 works. 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 Disappearing Earth contains just that-- many stories. 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.
Natasha sent him back a selfie with her middle finger raised. Then she followed that almost instantly with a picture of herself lit by the lamp on their bedside table, her top lowered, her lips and cheeks spun by the low wattage into dark gold. The story of their marriage: a little love, a little rage, a lot of ocean water.

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 Winesburg, Ohio in its scope and beauty, and a bit of Orange's There There in its interlinking but separate stories.

It was also beautifully atmospheric to me. 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 Miracle Creek, 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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Reading Progress

March 22, 2019 – Shelved
May 10, 2019 – Started Reading
May 14, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-38 of 38 (38 new)

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message 1: by Valerie (new) - added it

Valerie Oooh...I've been waiting for you to read this. Can't wait to hear what you think! I'm looking forward to this book.


Emily May It sounds so good!


message 3: by Valerie (new) - added it

Valerie Yes! The setting has me most intrigued. I've been on this tear of Russian novels lately. I pre-ordered this book so I cannot wait until release day! Not too much longer! I hope you enjoy it!


message 4: by Renju (new) - added it

Renju Johnson Waiting for review ☺️


karen LOVE this book! fist-bump to you!


message 6: by Valerie (new) - added it

Valerie Great review! I love seeing 5 star reviews from you on books that I want to read. I started this last night and I was immediately pulled in!


message 7: by Miriam (new) - added it

Miriam Beautiful review! Don't think it's my type of book but I'm tempted to read it now anyway


message 8: by Amy (new) - added it

Amy This sounds like something I would love - thanks for the review!


Hoolia Do you think would translate well to audiobook?


Chelsea Humphrey Alright girl, I just picked this up from the library. Do I need to read this ASAP?


Emily May Chelsea wrote: "Alright girl, I just picked this up from the library. Do I need to read this ASAP?"

Yes! Well, I really loved it. The way the author tells all these characters' stories around the mystery just got me 😭 I can't wait to see what you think - hope you love it too!


message 12: by DiNa (new)

DiNa Snowflake this my first time to read in english, could you recommend some books to me please?


message 13: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Highly intrigued by your review, Emily. Will be having a closer look at this one and suspect it's going right onto Mount TBR.


message 14: by Tucker (new) - added it

Tucker So glad you enjoyed it! I just got the audio and I've had an ARC for a while! I am starting it soon! Great review!


Emily May Tucker wrote: "So glad you enjoyed it! I just got the audio and I've had an ARC for a while! I am starting it soon! Great review!"

Thank you, Tucker! Hope you enjoy it :)


message 16: by Rabia (new) - added it

Rabia Terrific review Emily, and now i just need to buy the book.


message 17: by Jerin (new)

Jerin Tahapary Could there be a parallel between both novels -
Disappearing Earth and Picnic at Hanging Rock?


Emily May Rabia wrote: "Terrific review Emily, and now i just need to buy the book."

Thank you! :)


Emily May Jerin wrote: "Could there be a parallel between both novels -
Disappearing Earth and Picnic at Hanging Rock?"


Could be. I've actually never read Picnic at Hanging Rock.


message 20: by Jerin (new)

Jerin Tahapary Emily May wrote: "Jerin wrote: "Could there be a parallel between both novels -
Disappearing Earth and Picnic at Hanging Rock?"

Could be. I've actually never read Picnic at Hanging Rock."


Then I can’t wait for your Picnic at Hanging Rock review, Emily.


message 21: by Paloma (new)

Paloma Villasenor You don’t have a favorites shelves anymore, right? 🥺 I would go there whenever I wanted to read a gold book, so sad!


Emily May Paloma wrote: "You don’t have a favorites shelves anymore, right? 🥺 I would go there whenever I wanted to read a gold book, so sad!"

I'm sorry but it was so outdated. I always forgot to add new favourites to it :(


message 23: by Dhruvi (new)

Dhruvi Patel OMG read Red, White, and Royal Blue when you want a dose of happiness. It is happiness in book form I swear.


message 24: by Namrata (new) - added it

Namrata Sounds really interesting Emily! May put in on my TBR!


Emily May Dhruvi wrote: "OMG read Red, White, and Royal Blue when you want a dose of happiness. It is happiness in book form I swear."

Everyone keeps telling me that, but I've been avoiding it because I think that British guy in it is going to annoy me.


message 26: by Kat (new)

Kat Valentine Excellent review Emily!💖😉


Emily May Kat wrote: "Excellent review Emily!💖😉"

Thank you! :)


message 28: by Namrata (new) - added it

Namrata This book seems very interesting! Thanks for bringing it to my knowledge Emily! P.S, Love your reviews! You should make a booktube channel! If you already do, please let me know! <3


Emily May Namrata wrote: "This book seems very interesting! Thanks for bringing it to my knowledge Emily! P.S, Love your reviews! You should make a booktube channel! If you already do, please let me know! <3"

Thank you, Namrata! I did booktube for a while a few years back but I couldn't keep up with that AND regular reviewing :)


message 30: by Allison (new) - added it

Allison Love your reviews! I always look forward to reading them from my feed. How do you decide which quotes from the stories to include?


Emily May Allison wrote: "Love your reviews! I always look forward to reading them from my feed. How do you decide which quotes from the stories to include?"

Thank you, Allison! Usually there's a sentence or two that really speaks to me/moves me in a book, so when I find one I just note it down :)


Carol Exactly right!!


message 33: by Amelia (new) - added it

Amelia Strydom Fantastic review.


message 34: by Lesley (new) - added it

Lesley Beautiful review. I’ve added this one to my list 😊.


Randy Simon Wonderful review. I just finished reading Miracle Creek as well, and highly recommend it.


Jennifer Harris Great review! My thoughts exactly.


message 37: by arthi (new) - added it

arthi rose


Pennie Larina As a Russian reader, I'll repeat what I've just written in my own review: this is the first book written by an American about Russia that doesn't feel like a book written about Americans living in Russia and pretending to be Russians. I can't
imagine the amount of research it must have required.


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