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Disappearing Earth
Cover of Disappearing Earth
Disappearing Earth
A novel
Borrow Borrow
One of The New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year

National Book Award Finalist
Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize
Finalist for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
Finalist for the New York Public Library's Young Lions Fiction Award
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.
One of The New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year

National Book Award Finalist
Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize
Finalist for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
Finalist for the New York Public Library's Young Lions Fiction Award
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.
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Excerpts-
  • From the cover October

    "We forgot the tent," Max said, turning to Katya. The beam of her flashlight flattened his features. His face was a white mask of distress. The forest around them was black, because they'd left Petropavlovsk so late—his last-minute packing, his bad directions. His fault.

    In the harsh light, he was nearly not beautiful anymore. Cheek­bones erased, chin cleft illuminated, lips parted, he looked wide-eyed into the glare. Katya and Max had been together since August and as of September were officially in love. Yet the tent. Disgust rip­pled through her. "You're not serious," she said. She caught the tail of her repulsion before it passed; she had to hold on to it, a snake in the hand, otherwise she would forgive him too soon.

    "It's not here."

    Katya handed him the flashlight and started to dig through the trunk. Shadows lengthened and contracted against their things: sacks of food, sleeping bags, two foam mats. A folded tarp to line the tent floor. Loose towels for the hot springs, a couple folding chairs, rolled trash bags that unraveled as she shoved them. Katya should have packed the car herself, instead of watching his body flex in the rear­view mirror this evening. Pots clanked somewhere deep in the mess.

    "Max!" she said. "How!"

    "We can sleep outside," he said. "It's not that cold." She stared back at his outline above the circle of light. "We can sleep in the car," he said.

    "Magnificent." We forgot, he said, we, as if they together kept one tent in one closet of one shared home. As if they jointly made these mishaps. As if she had not needed to leave the port early this after­noon, drive twenty minutes south through the city to shower and change at her own place, drive thirty-five minutes north to get to his apartment complex on time, then wait eighteen long minutes in his parking lot for him to come out.

    He'd told her earlier in the week he would bring his tent. His car, a dinky Nissan, didn't have four-wheel drive, so they were taking hers, and he had loaded such a stack of stuff into the trunk—enough to merit a second run up to his apartment, a return trip with his arms full—that Katya told herself he had it handled. Instead of checking she tuned her car radio to local news of a shop robbery, an approach­ing cyclone, another call for those two little girls. She gripped her steering wheel. Once Max finally climbed into the passenger seat, she said, "That's everything?"

    Nodding, he leaned to kiss her. "Let's get going. Take me away," he said then. She checked the time (forty-one minutes late) and shifted into reverse.

    Now they were going to spend the night in her mini SUV. Depend­able as the Suzuki was, bringing them these four hours north of the city over roads that turned from asphalt to gravel to dirt, it made terrible sleeping quarters. Two doors, two narrow rows of seats, no legroom. The gearshift would separate them from each other. Nei­ther of them would have space to lie down.

    Katya sighed and Max's shoulders bowed in response. She wanted to touch those shoulders. "It's okay," she said. Her disgust slithered off to wait for his next error. "It's all right, bear cub, it happens. Would you gather us some wood?"

    Once the flashlight was off bobbing between trees, Katya moved her car over the flattened patch of weeds where a tent was meant to be staked. The mistake had been hers in not asking earlier... next time they'd do better. Max was simply the sort of person, like so many others, whom she had to supervise.

    Soil shifted under her tires. She didn't turn the headlights back on. Slowly, her eyes were...
About the Author-
  • JULIA PHILLIPS is a Pushcart-nominated writer whose short fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train, The Rumpus, and The Antioch Review; she has written articles and essays for The Atlantic, Slate, Jezebel, BuzzFeed News, and The Moscow Times. She lives in Brooklyn.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from March 4, 2019
    In the opening chapter of Phillips’s exceptional and suspenseful debut, two sisters—Sofia, 8, and Alyona, 11—vanish from a beach on the Kamchatka Peninsula in northeastern Russia, and their disappearance sends ripples throughout the close-knit community. The subsequent 12 chapters, taking place during the months over the following year, chart the impact of the potential kidnapping—and the destructive effect of longing and loss—and play out in a series of interconnected and equally riveting stories about others in the surrounding area. “April” peeks into the day-to-day of a policeman’s restless wife, who, while on maternity leave, is haunted by missed opportunities and “ things darker, stranger, out of bounds.” In “May,” shrewlike Oksana, the abduction’s only witness, severs ties with a colleague after the colleague’s absentminded husband loses Oksana’s beloved dog. The penultimate chapter unites some of the book’s disparate threads, and follows Sofia and Alyona’s anxious and emotionally ravaged mother, Marina, as she meets a photographer at a solstice festival who uncovers a potential link to an earlier unsolved missing-persons case and an important clue about who the perpetrator of both crimes might be. The discovery leads to a truly nail-biting climax and the novel’s shocking conclusion that even eagle-eyed readers might not see coming. Phillips’s exquisite descriptions of the desolate landscape and the “empty, rolling earth” are masterful throughout, as is her skill at crafting a complex and genuinely addictive whodunit. This novel signals the arrival of a mighty talent. Agent: Suzanne Gluck, WME Entertainment.

  • AudioFile Magazine Narrator Ilyana Kadushin skillfully meets the challenges of this genre-bending audiobook. Set in modern-day Kamchatka, the story revolves around the disappearance of two young sisters and is told through the eyes of different women or girls whose lives have been variously affected by the kidnappings. Kadushin modulates her tone to fit each woman's age and circumstances, highlighting, for example, a young dancer's tentative disloyalty to her controlling boyfriend, a teen's dismay over losing a friend, and a potential witness's uncertainty about what she saw. These vignettes evoke details of life on the northern Russian peninsula, particularly emphasizing gender, cultural, socioeconomic, and generational divides. Kadushin's pronunciations of the non-English words enhance the setting, and her delivery of the dialogue flows at a natural tempo. C.B.L. � AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine
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    Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
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    All copies of this title, including those transferred to portable devices and other media, must be deleted/destroyed at the end of the lending period.

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Disappearing Earth
A novel
Julia Phillips
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