The Disappearances

The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy (2017)

the disappearances

YA Fiction | Mystery | Historical | Paranormal
4.5 stars

“What if the ordinary things in life suddenly…disappeared?

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.”

pooled ink Review:

Oh I loved it! I loved it! Now I know that there are plenty of people who will have differing opinions but for me this book happened to strike a magical sweet spot with my soul and from start to finish it had my heart trapped between its pages.

I was kept constantly curious and enraptured by the mystery, the characters, and the lovely flowing turns of phrase. Furthermore I felt that the things that disappear in the story are so cleverly chosen and are such unique ideas that I truly applaud the author. She really must have studied her Shakespeare (at least for this book anyway) to have been able to craft such riddles and uncover such clues.

“You can’t search for the truth with integrity if you’re only looking to find the kind that benefits you.” –George

Nothing is obvious or blatantly cliché, but rather she takes the simple question of what would one miss in life if it truly disappeared and brings it to such a creative and deeper level, weaving it into a remarkable and well-written novel. Each disappearance isn’t merely a tragedy or a simple event, each one affects the characters in individual ways and shapes their paths and choices as the plot twists to its climax.

And there held the key. Often with mysteries I grow impatient with the pace and irritated by all the silly tactics used to try and distract me from the mystery and its answers while simultaneously trying to meet that word count. With this book however I never felt like the author was trying to trick me or thwart me and there were no filibusters to be found. I wasn’t even constantly distracted by trying to figure it all out before the book could end. Rather I felt that I was discovering the world of Sterling right beside Aila and anxiously awaited each turn in the mystery.

There was enough depth and character development that kept me intrigued and patient with the mystery of the disappearances. I desperately wanted answers (as did everyone) but I couldn’t take my eyes away from the developing lives of Aila and her friends. Of course she was dismayed by the disappearances but when one is young and with so many tragedies and changes occurring all at once, life must be dealt with first…but Aila is quick to find out that her life and the disappearances are linked closer than she could have guessed as one by one she uncovers the bones of a skeleton left behind in her mother’s closet, one that the town is not eager to forget.

I stand. Push back the small voice in my head that pleads reason, pleads restraint. Push it back until I simply can’t hear it anymore. -Stefen

The chapters written from Stefen’s POV add immensely in both building curiosity and supplying little hints and clues towards the secret behind the Variants and the Disappearances. In fact these chapters aided not only the plot but the pacing as well.

As the story goes on we witness glimpses of Stefen’s life as it quickly catches up to the present day of Aila’s story and inevitably collides. And while at first mysery shrouds his role and curiosity burns within me, these feelings quickly turn to horror and shock as I search everywhere for a break to pull desperate for Stefen to stop himself and the dark twisted paths he treads.

Everything truly collides into a climax of horror and while I felt certain an answer would be found the characters certainly suffered. Even so it does not end quite so happily for everyone and it left me with mixed feelings but mostly sad for that person. I do feel though that this book’s overall ending was simple, fitting, and delicately spun. I don’t think I’d change a thing.

Overall this book simply clicked with me. It was exciting, emotional, addictingly mysterious, not over dramatized, and the lovely simple romance carefully woven around each peg of the plot had me swooning.

I can talk about the plot and the characters all I want but you can read the book’s description for yourself, you can scroll through reviews on Goodreads, but it really comes down to whether or not this book will click for you. Personally I adored the writing, the character building, the world building, the clever twisting plot, and the heart of the story. It just gripped me in a way a book hasn’t in a long time. Of course I hope that you will pick up this book and love it too, but I suppose that is all I can do, hope.

A dark and sinister mystery set in the 1940s and filled with clever riddles, mysterious Shakespeare, and a thread of a sweet romance of true love, my heart swelled at the touch of this story as it filled me with fear, awe, yearning, and joy. Flowing prose, intriguing characters, and a mystery where life’s simple blessings disappear one by one, The Disappearances will certainly stand out from the others on the shelves.


P.S. So this story takes place in a town called Sterling. Well the moment I read that my mind immediately went to my own hometown Sterling, Massachusetts. I was born there, spent part of my childhood there, and every day I want to move back or at least book a visit. Anyway, of course my mind was instantly convinced that this story took place in my Sterling and then I found out Aila and Miles had driven just a few hours from their home in Connecticut to reach Sterling and I was like A-ha! It must be! There is even a Sheffield in MA (albeit not right beside Sterling…) Anyway, I know that the author probably chose the name at random and all these clues are utter happenstance but in my mind I rather enjoy the idea that my hometown could be the setting of this book…

amazon icon_tiny Purchase here: The Disappearances 

Similar recommended reads: Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley, Nora & Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor, The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Meet Emily Bain Murphy!

emily bain murphy

Emily Bain Murphy grew up in Indiana, Hong Kong, and Tokyo, and has also called Massachusetts and Connecticut home.

She loves books, Japanese karaoke, exploring new cities, and anything with Nutella. Her debut YA fantasy, THE DISAPPEARANCES, will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2017.

Murphy currently lives in San Francisco with her family and is at work on her second novel.

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