Summary and book reviews of Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips

Disappearing Earth

by Julia Phillips

Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips X
Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2019, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 7, 2020, 272 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Jamie Chornoby
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

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.

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 ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

With transportive, immersive prose, Phillips synthesizes her characters' world, creating something that is sharp and clear. Striking a balance between immersive fiction and realistic contextual elements—in geographic accuracy, cultural attentiveness and more—there is something here for every reader...continued

Full Review Members Only (604 words).

(Reviewed by Jamie Chornoby).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
This novel signals the arrival of a mighty talent.

Booklist (starred review)
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.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
An unusual, cleverly constructed thriller that is also a deep dive into the culture of a place many Americans have probably never heard of, illuminating issues of race, culture, sexual attraction, and the transition from the U.S.S.R. to post-Soviet Russia.

Author Blurb Simon Winchester
I cannot speak too highly of Julia Phillips's thrilling, impeccably written and splendidly imagined story, set with rigorous attention to detail in one of the most volcanically dangerous and beautifully remote corners of the planet. An exciting beginning from an author whose literary future looks set to be stellar.

Author Blurb Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage
Julia Phillips is at once a careful cartographer and gorgeous storyteller. Written with passion and patience, this is the story of a people and the land that shapes them. The mystery of the missing girls burns at the center of this astonishing debut, and the complexity of ethnicity, gender, hearth and kin illuminates this question and many more.

Author Blurb Gary Shteyngart
A genuine masterpiece, but one that is easily consumed in a feverish stay-up-all-night bout of reading pleasure. It's as much a portrait of humanity as of a small Kamchatka community.

Author Blurb Jean Kwok, author of Girl in Translation
Brilliant, spectacular—a wonderful book. Julia Phillips' exquisite, detailed writing drew me in from the very first page of Disappearing Earth. I fell in love with each and every poignantly rendered character, even as I couldn't keep my eyes off the central mystery of the two missing girls. The novel is both a riveting page-turner and a gorgeous exploration of love, one that circles around a magnetic core of loss. It has lodged itself deep in my heart.

Author Blurb Simon Sebag-Montefiore, author of The Romanovs
Suspenseful, original and compelling, Disappearing Earth is a strange and haunting voyage into a strange and haunting world—the faraway Kamchatka in Russia's Far East, which is brought by this debut novelist to eerie, vibrant and unsettling life.

Author Blurb Christine Schutt, author of Pure Hollywood
Julia Phillips' novel is vividly real, but it reads at times like a suspenseful fairy tale. Here are portraits of different women with a shared yearning for autonomy, in a land inhospitable to it. Here, too, is a story in which, against all odds, they do not give up hope. Disappearing Earth is a brave, affecting accomplishment.

Author Blurb Lorraine Adams, author of Harbor
Disappearing Earth is a rare achievement: haunting and complex; intense yet subtle; sophisticated yet unputdownable; moving yet never sentimental; foreign yet somehow familiar. And it snaps shut at the end with dark poise. Julia Phillips possesses a unique talent, and I can't wait for her next book.

Author Blurb Suki Kim, author of Without You, There is No Us
This exquisite debut reads like a secret being whispered to your ears only. Julia Phillips so smoothly evokes the quiet rage, breathtaking tenderness and searing discomfort of a human connection.

Author Blurb Bill Cheng, author of Southern Cross the Dog
Julia Phillips writes in clean, sharp lines that belie an almost frightening depth, and a clarity of eye that renders a complex and gut-wrenching vision of the Kamchatka region and its people. More than once, I gawped at this book: there are no seams, no sentimentality, not a single untrue thought from start to finish. With Disappearing Earth, Phillips accomplishes in her first book what most writers can't glimpse in a lifetime.

Author Blurb Jim Shepard, author of The Book of Aron
Disappearing Earth is not only a viscerally wide-ranging introduction to the land and culture of the Kamchatka Peninsula, as well as a missing persons thriller—as beautifully written as it was, I still couldn't turn the pages fast enough—it's also a wrenching meditation on the agonies of those losses to which we never fully adjust. This is a dazzlingly impressive first novel.

Author Blurb Sloane Crosley, author of I Was Told There'd Be Cake
A feat of literary suspense. I felt like a wide-eyed kid reading Julia Phillips' Disappearing Earth. I could live in her portrayal of this remote part of the world forever.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

The Indigenous People of Kamchatka, Russia

Valley of the Geysers in the Kamchatka PeninsulaThe remote Russian peninsula of Kamchatka, where Julia Phillips' debut novel Disappearing Earth takes place, is very isolated. It is located on the far east side of Russia, surrounded by the Sea of Okhotsk, the Bering Sea and the Pacific Ocean, riddled by volcanic activity from the Pacific tectonic plate, part of Earth's "Ring of Fire." While the United Nations estimates that, as of 2019, Indigenous people (also known as Aboriginals, First Peoples or Natives) comprise 5% of the global population, in Kamchatka, that number is 10%. Some of the Native groups of this region include the Koryaks, Alyutor, Chukchi, Kamchadal, Itelmens, Aleut and Even.

Each group is nuanced and distinct. For instance, the Evens—of whom there are nearly 2,...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Disappearing Earth, try these:

  • Grist Mill Road jacket

    Grist Mill Road

    by Christopher J. Yates

    Published 2018

    About this book

    The highly anticipated new novel from the author whose debut was called "The smart summer thriller you've been waiting for...The novel you should be reading tonight" (NPR's All Things Considered) and was named a Book of the Year by NPR and an Entertainment Weekly Must-List Pick.

  • Emma in the Night jacket

    Emma in the Night

    by Wendy Walker

    Published 2018

    About this book

    More books by this author

    A searing psychological thriller.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Price We Pay
    The Price We Pay
    by Marty Makary
    The Hippocratic Oath is one of the oldest affidavits in history, originating in ancient Greece. ...
  • Book Jacket: The Fountains of Silence
    The Fountains of Silence
    by Ruta Sepetys
    The Spanish Civil War and its aftermath was a complicated period in history. The issues each side ...
  • Book Jacket: Curious Toys
    Curious Toys
    by Elizabeth Hand
    In Curious Toys, Elizabeth Hand tells the story of Vivian, a 14-year-old girl disguised as a boy ...
  • Book Jacket: Your House Will Pay
    Your House Will Pay
    by Steph Cha
    Steph Cha's novel Your House Will Pay shows how a legacy of violence and injustice can ripple ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Nothing to See Here
    by Kevin Wilson

    A moving and uproarious novel about a woman who finds meaning caring for two children with remarkable abilities.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Mighty Justice
    by Dovey Johnson Roundtree & Katie McCabe

    An inspiring life story that speaks urgently to our troubled times.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Home for Erring and Outcast Girls

From the author of
Calling Me Home

An emotionally raw and resonant story of two young women connected by a home for "fallen girls," and inspired by historical events.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

W G Up M C D

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.