The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy (2017)

disappearancesA unique, suspenseful mystery-fantasy set in the 1940s.

Recommended grade level: 7 and up

Pages:   388 (for ISBN 9780544879362

Genre(s) and keywords: mystery, historical fiction, fantasy, romance, magical realism (yeah I know that’s like all the genres),

Tone/Style: mysterious, dark

Pace: leisurely to moderate

Topics: hidden past of a family member, curses, blame

Themes: grief and loss, alienation, romantic relationships, family

Summary: Aila Quinn’s mother, Juliet, has always been a mystery: vibrant yet guarded, she keeps her secrets beyond Aila’s reach. When Juliet dies, Aila and her younger brother Miles are sent to live in Sterling, a rural town far from home–and the place where Juliet grew up.

Sterling is a place with mysteries of its own. A place where the experiences that weave life together–scents of flowers and food, reflections from mirrors and lakes, even the ability to dream–vanish every seven years.

No one knows what caused these “Disappearances,” or what will slip away next. But Sterling always suspected that Juliet Quinn was somehow responsible–and Aila must bear the brunt of their blame while she follows the chain of literary clues her mother left behind.

As the next Disappearance nears, Aila begins to unravel the dual mystery of why the Disappearances happen and who her mother truly was. One thing is clear: Sterling isn’t going to hold on to anyone’s secrets for long before it starts giving them up. (Source)

Who will like this book?: I’m always looking for books that find a way to distinguish themselves from all the rest, and this definitely fits the bill. It blends historical fiction, mystery, fantasy, and suspense into something unique. A great choice for the reader who has seen it all and wants something different. It casts a wide net genre-wise, which should make it appeal to a large range of readers.

Who won’t like this book?: This is fairly sophisticated, and so maybe not the best pick for readers looking for something quick and simple for a book report. Though it’s suspenseful, the tension is emotional rather than action-oriented, so some may think it is slow.

Other comments: It looks like horror, but it’s not. (Though it is a little creepy.)

Sequel(s): None

Readalikes: The one that immediately comes to mind for me is The Diviners by Libba Bray, though that is darker and heavier than The Disappearances. Other than that…I’m a little stumped on this one! Anyone have an ideas to contribute? This has inspired me to add some more magical realism to my reading history.

-Kylie Peters

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