Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey


Ways to Disappear

Author: Idra Novey

Published: 2016

Date Read: July 26th 2016

Rating: ★★★★★ (and I’ve added it to my list of favourite books!)

“Deep in gambling debt, the celebrated Brazilian writer Beatriz Yagoda is last seen holding a suitcase and a cigar and climbing into an almond tree. She abruptly vanishes.

In snowy Pittsburgh, her American translator Emma hears the news and, against the wishes of her boyfriend and Beatriz’s two grown children, flies immediately to Brazil. There, in the sticky, sugary heat of Rio, Emma and her author’s children conspire to solve the mystery of Yagoda’s curious disappearance and staunch the colorful demands of her various outstanding affairs: the rapacious loan shark with a zeal for severing body parts, and the washed-up and disillusioned editor who launched Yagoda’s career years earlier.”


I’m not going to lie, I bought this book because of the cover, I judged a book by its cover. I’m so glad I bought this book because I was absolutely entranced with it the entire time I was reading, it was a book unlike any other books I had read before. The contrast of bright colours on the cover perfectly mirror the eclectic style of writing and jagged story line contained within. There was no synopsis on the back of the book either when I picked it up, only reviews, all stating how the book was ‘compelling’ and ‘bewitching’. I felt like this was a better justification for wanting to read it aside from just liking the front cover.

Firstly, the basis of this book is a topic that interests me a lot, despite it being an incredibly morbid and dark subject. Kidnapping in South America. Living in England, I often don’t hear about the cases surrounding kidnapping as it is so far removed from our way of living and the society we live in and so whenever the opportunity to read about these circumstances arises, I’m always intrigued. However, this book focuses more on the emotional aspect of dealing with someone close to you being a kidnapped. In this way the novel avoided acknowledging the harsh acts that kidnapping cases may involve and instead invites the reader to comprehend their own interpretation of what harsh acts may occur. The novel itself focuses of the disappearance of Beatriz Yagoda and explores how this one woman’s disappearance affects those around her.

Idra Novey manages to capture each character at their most vulnerable and convey this through their relationships with each other and her very memorable style of writing. The relationship between Raquel, Beatriz’s daughter and Emma, Beatriz’s translator, was quite prominent for me throughout the book. They start off totally indifferent to each othe,  Raquel being wary of Emma’s relationship with her mother and her brother, Marcus. I really liked how after experiencing a kidnapping, a death and Raquel noticing the deterioration of her brother, the relationship between Raquel and Emma starts to improve.

I really liked how Novey included word definitions in between some chapters, it was an interesting touch how she defined a word and then related it back to the characters’ situations. Novey seems to have a very particular way of writing and I found it very easy to read, it didn’t give everything away at once, it was very precise yet descriptive. The contrast between short sentences, long sentences, lone words manages to encapsulate the disjointed feeling of the novel suggesting the effect of shock, fear and confusion are all attributed to situations involving kidnapping.

Overall, I thought this book was fascinating, I couldn’t put it down. It’s written in such an ironically beautiful way, the poetic style prose surrounding such a morbid topic of kidnapping, ransoms and gambling. I also read another book last year, An Untamed State by Roxane Gay, which also explores kidnapping but in this case it explores an experience of being kidnapped and the acts that are involved which sometimes made it quite hard to read as it tended to be quite graphic.

By Beth Morley


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