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Disappearing Earth
2019
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Summary
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST
Longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
National Best Seller

"Splendidly imagined . . . Thrilling" --Simon Winchester
"A genuine masterpiece" --Gary Shteyngart

Spellbinding, moving--evoking a fascinating region on the other side of the world--this suspenseful and haunting story announces the debut of a profoundly gifted writer.

One August afternoon, on the shoreline of the Kamchatka peninsula at the northeastern edge of Russia, two girls--sisters, eight and eleven--go missing. In the ensuing weeks, then months, the police investigation turns up nothing. Echoes of the disappearance reverberate across a tightly woven community, with the fear and loss felt most deeply among its women.

Taking us through a year in Kamchatka, Disappearing Earth enters with astonishing emotional acuity the worlds of a cast of richly drawn characters, all connected by the crime: a witness, a neighbor, a detective, a mother. We are transported to vistas of rugged beauty--densely wooded forests, open expanses of tundra, soaring volcanoes, and the glassy seas that border Japan and Alaska--and into a region as complex as it is alluring, where social and ethnic tensions have long simmered, and where outsiders are often the first to be accused.

In a story as propulsive as it is emotionally engaging, and through a young writer's virtuosic feat of empathy and imagination, this powerful novel brings us to a new understanding of the intricate bonds of family and community, in a Russia unlike any we have seen before.
Trade Reviews
Booklist Review
The volcano-spiked Kamchatka Peninsula in Far East Russia, where the tundra still supports herds of reindeer and the various Native groups who depend on them, is the evocative setting of Phillips' accomplished and gripping episodic novel. In the region's largest city, Petropavlovsk-Kamschatsky, Russians are disparaging of Natives and migrant workers, and nearly everyone struggles with limited means and options. That's why researcher Oksana notices the clean, new car carrying a man and two young, bird-boned Russian girls and reports her sighting when news breaks that two sisters, living with their single mother, a journalist, are missing. This abduction forms the hub of Phillips' atmospheric drama of shock and despair, each radiating spoke the story of a woman affected by the painful mystery, including a customs officer, a detective's lonely wife, a student, and the head of a village cultural center whose 18-year-old daughter has also vanished. In fresh and unpredictable scenes depicting broken friendships and failed marriages, strained family gatherings, drunken sauna parties, a camping trip, and rehearsals of a Native dance troupe, Phillips' spellbinding prose is saturated with sensuous nuance and emotional intensity as she subtly traces the shadows of Russia's past and illuminates today's daunting complexities of gender and identity, expectations and longing.--Donna Seaman Copyright 2019 Booklist
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