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The Disappearances

Review

The Disappearances

What would life be like without many of the daily experiences we take for granted? That is the question explored in Emily Bain Murphy’s debut novel, THE DISAPPEARANCES. After Aila Quinn’s mother, Juliet, dies and her father is drafted into service during World War II, Aila and her troublesome younger brother, Miles, are sent to live with a close friend of their mother’s in Juliet’s home town of Sterling. While anxious and grieving at first, Aila and Miles quickly see that the people of Sterling are hiding secrets, and they soon learn the truth --- every seven years, on October 29th, the towns of Sterling, Corrander and Sheffield lose something --- with scents, colors, reflections and dreams serving as just some of the “Disappearances” over the decades. No one knows why these Disappearances happen, or how to stop them.

When Aila and Miles arrive in Sterling, the next Disappearance is due to happen in a few days, increasing tension, worry and speculation. Fingers are pointed as Sterling’s residents try to find someone to blame, and not even Aila’s dead mother escapes scrutiny, while everyone worries about what will go missing next. After Aila begins to see just how much the Disappearances are taking a toll on the town, she decides to try to solve the mystery of the Disappearances with the help of some of her mother’s belongings and residents of the town, both to clear her mother’s name and restore normalcy for the people of Sterling before they lose anything else.

"The town of Sterling seems to breathe with a life that comes from the excellent writing. Murphy’s debut novel...is a gorgeous story that will leave readers waiting to see what she writes next --- while wishing that she could write about the town of Sterling forever."

Emily Bain Murphy’s debut novel does not disappoint. Many have compared THE DISAPPEARANCES to TUCK EVERLASTING, and the touches of the unusual and the mysterious yet enchanting tone are very much the same. THE DISAPPEARANCES is captivating, due to both the concept and Murphy’s writing itself. The amazement Aila and Miles feel at their magical surroundings and the sense of long-held secrets evokes a feeling of wonder that adds to the enthralling tone of the novel. The setting is historical, with the story beginning in 1942, and this fits the concept and overall tone of the story much better than a modern-day setting would, as the town is able to be secluded from the world. As the story progresses, Sterling itself begins to take shape, with Murphy including internal tensions, outward rivalries, teenage traditions and a sense of unity in the face of common troubles --- all of which give life and depth to the setting. Sterling has its own culture, so to speak, and this adds yet another layer of interest to THE DISAPPEARANCES.

The mystery of the Disappearances is gripping and pulls the reader in, while the idea of colors and smells disappearing is a truly unique concept. Murphy not only explores what this would mean for daily life, but also how it would affect the character’s relationships and hopes. The plot is well-paced, striking the fine balance between detail and action that allows for both character development and a steady progression. However, this is not the only plotline in the story. As Aila works to solve the mystery, Murphy demonstrates her character growth, including her evolving relationship with her brother, her changing emotions toward her deceased mother, the general coming-of-age desire to prove oneself and a touch of romance. All of these “side stories” add to the story’s complexity, but the mystery remains central and gives the story direction. This intricacy of multiple plotlines weaving together, while one problem remains the focus of the story is a balance particularly hard to achieve (as often a book loses clarity and organization) but this is not a problem for Murphy. Aila’s multiple conflicts and problems allow the reader to get the full view of her character and see how she grows and matures on all sides throughout the story.

Overall, THE DISAPPEARANCES is the perfect novel for anyone who loves a good mystery and the characters and the town of Sterling seem to breathe with a life that comes from the excellent writing. Murphy’s debut novel exceeds expectations and is a gorgeous story that will leave readers waiting to see what she writes next --- while wishing that she could write about the town of Sterling forever.

Reviewed by Rachel R., Teen Board Member on July 11, 2017

The Disappearances
by Emily Bain Murphy