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Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips

book cover of Disappearing Earth

Not a conventional mystery novel – while the first chapter describes two young girls going missing, every chapter thereafter is from the perspective of a different person on the remote Kamchatka Peninsula. Most of them don’t know the girls at all, and as such the news of their abduction becomes just part of the background noise to these many different characters' lives (until the last chapter, from the perspective of the girls' mother).

There is in fact a resolution to the mystery, but that’s not the main reason to read this novel. Its real strong point is its elaborate depiction of this remote and troubled part of the world. Through its wide range of perspectives, a number of different issues are touched upon: misogyny, racism, the legacy of the Soviet period and the post-Soviet economic crisis, homophobia, elitism, the difficulties of being young in a remote area (the lack of job opportunities, or a large enough pool of people to date that you don’t “have” to settle for a less-than-ideal option…). It’s very interesting and skilfully done. Don’t go into this expecting a real mystery novel, but if you like literary fiction exploring social issues in different parts of the world, this will make a great read.

★★★★

photo of Jessica Smith is a left-wing feminist who loves animals, books, gaming, and cooking; she’s also very interested in linguistics, history, technology and society.