This novel by Julia Phillips was a totally unexpected hidden gem that I read with my book club for this month's read. I admit I wasn't looking forward to the book as I was mislead by the title. I expected a book about climate change etc and didn't really feel up to reading a controversial topic in the current climate of the US. Well this book was not about that topic at all and I am glad I read it.
When I went to write my Goodreads review, I went back and forth between a 3 and 4 star rating. I initially gave it a 3 because at times it felt like there were too many characters many of which felt unnecessary. But after reflecting on the book upon completion, I decided the characters played a role in pointing out some themes in the story. It demonstrated how the area of Kamchatka is a largely wilderness area but in the end there are not many degrees of separation among its inhabitants.
The story weaves among different narrators as 1 year elapses. As you read through the novel, the different narrators' relationships with one another become apparent. I do still feel as though some of the characters were potentially unnecessary but in the end they all had a connection to Marina in some tenuous way or another. I think these relationships showed a sense of community that often gets lost in our society today.
Additionally, the novel highlighted how there are forms of bias around the world. In this case there was a perceived difference between Russians and the natives of Northern Kamchatka. I found myself visualizing the native cultures as similar to those in Alaska, which turned out to be rather accurate when the author describes them as Aleut. I definitely think having visited Alaska makes it that much easier to envision this area of the world.
I also enjoyed the perspectives of the older generation versus younger and how they perceived the old USSR vs modern Soviet Republic. It also felt as though there was a common idea of how many who grow up in small communities cannot wait to get out of those but then find they don't quite know how to acclimate to their new surroundings. This book has many layers to it and probably could have been much longer and delved deeper into the characters.
The last portion of the book picks up its pace and has the reader holding their breath to see the outcome. Alas, the book does not provide a conclusion that many would prefer to see. In fact, I read a review that describes the ending as being a low voiced f*** because you don't get to see how it ends.
If you like books that wrap everything up in a neat bow and tell you how the characters go on with their lives or resolve conflicts, this is not going to be a book that leaves you satisfied. If you are looking for a book that leaves you thinking about it for long periods after completing it, this is the book for you.
Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book was an fascinating story that centered around a mysterious disappearance. The approach of writing a month by month account from different narrators’ perspectives was interesting. At first glance it seems there are too many characters and stories going on. As the book progresses the purpose becomes clearer. Ultimately it seems to show how small a world Kamchatka is but also how big and diverse. The book touches upon the different cultures present and the different experiences they represent. I enjoyed the book
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Challenge PromptsThe Challenge Prompts I will use this for are:
- Library Love #LibraryLoveChallenge - Book #61
- Literary Escapes- Kamchatka Peninsula Russia
- Around the Year in 52 Books- #30 A book from the New York Times '100 Notable Books' list for any year
- Cloak and Dagger #CloakDaggerChal : Book #49
- 2020 TBR #2020TBRReadingChallenge #16 set in Asia
- TBR Book #36 #Backlistreader ; #MountTBR2020; #StartOnYourShelfathon