With her debut novel, Disappearing Earth (Knopf, $26.95), Julia Phillips shows she is an author to watch. With a surprising ease and deftness, Phillips transports the reader to the rugged and frozen terrain of the Kamchatka Peninsula in northeastern Russia. One August afternoon the Golosovsky sisters, age eight and ten, go missing. Each beautifully written chapter of the ensuing story takes place over the course of one month during the year after their disappearance. This story is not your usual mystery thriller. It is instead an examination of the ripples, at times barely noticeable, a tragedy can leave on a seemingly tranquil community. Each chapter is told from the point of view of a woman, most of whom don’t have a deep connection to the Golosovsky family. Yet each has been touched by this mystery in however small a way. As each woman’s story unfolds, Phillips reminds us that with every ripple there is a preceding point of impact. While the sisters’ disappearance contributes, Phillips shows that the real impact comes from the realities of life women face on the Kamchatka Peninsula: violence, betrayal, discrimination, mistrust, poverty, and physical hardship form the true tragedy here. This is an amazing story that will leave you yearning for more.
Ghosts and monsters do exist, if only in our memories. Summer break in Niagara Falls is just beginning when we meet Jake Baker, paranormal enthusiast, bullied youth, and our protagonist-extraordinaire. Told from his point of view as an adult years later, Jake reflects on one summer when the magic and adventure of youth collided with the concrete world of pain and consequences. This is a beautiful yet haunting coming-of-age story.
In 1974 Francisco Franco died. The Spanish people could finally begin openly discussing the legacy of the Spanish Civil War in order to build a future. However, in a country where repression was the norm until recently, how do you have a transparent dialogue? In 1975 the Paneros, an infamous literary family, aired a scandalous documentary about their lives that, in the decades since, has been interpreted as an attempt to answer this question. Shulman's amazing book chronicles the story of the Paneros, the treacherous twists and turns they navigated, as well as the impact of their now cult favorite documentary.