Book Review: Three Ways to Disappear

Three Ways to Disappear by Katy Yocom

Leaving behind a nomadic and dangerous career as a journalist, Sarah DeVaughan returns to India, the country of her childhood and a place of unspeakable family tragedy, to help preserve the endangered Bengal tigers. Meanwhile, at home in Kentucky, her sister, Quinn–also deeply scarred by the past and herself a keeper of secrets–tries to support her sister, even as she fears that India will be Sarah’s undoing.

As Sarah faces challenges in her new job–made complicated by complex local politics and a forbidden love–Quinn copes with their mother’s refusal to talk about the past, her son’s life-threatening illness, and her own increasingly troubled marriage. When Sarah asks Quinn to join her in India, Quinn realizes that the only way to overcome the past is to return to it, and it is in this place of stunning natural beauty and hidden danger that the sisters can finally understand the ways in which their family has disappeared–from their shared history, from one another–and recognize that they may need to risk everything to find themselves again.

With dramatic urgency, a powerful sense of place, and a beautifully rendered cast of characters revealing a deep understanding of human nature in all its flawed glory, Katy Yocom has created an unforgettable novel about saving all that is precious, from endangered species to the indelible bonds among family.

 

Review:

I loved this book. It was really well written and kept me reading, curious about what the characters would do next.

The story goes back and forth between 2 sisters, Sarah, an international journalist who settles down in India to work at a tiger sanctuary, and Quinn, a mother of twins who has lives in Kentucky. They grew up as children in India until Sarah’s twin died and their mother moved them back to the US.

The relationship between the sisters and then their mother was great and I love how much it evolved, especially as they came to terms with the unfortunate death of their brother so many years ago.  I enjoyed the explorations of different ways that people disappear from one anther and how they use this to cope with or hide from their pain.

Then there were the tigers, the masters of camouflage. They were integral characters to the book as well and I loved the descriptions of them and their interesting personalities. In fact, so many of the scenes in India were wonderful and richly described. Along with the tigers were the small villages affected by the tiger sanctuary — there are so many layers to things and this book reminds us of this. Yes, it is good to save the tigers, but in so doing, there can be adverse effects for others nearby if the situation isn’t dealt with properly. This book highlighted how we are all interconnected, even down to purses being made by women in a village in India and how that changes things for the person selling them in the US.

 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and watching the characters develop, learn, and grow. I loved the descriptions, and even the politics. These are certainly issues we need to be dealing with on a global level, but shows how small, individual steps can make a difference and how women supporting women and change a community.

 

 

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book.

 

 

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Book Review: A People’s History of Heaven

A People’s History of Heaven by Mathangi Subramanian

A politically driven graffiti artist. A transgender Christian convert. A blind girl who loves to dance. A queer daughter of a hijabi union leader. These are some of the young women who live in a Bangalore slum known as Heaven, young women whom readers will come to love in the moving, atmospheric, and deeply inspiring debut, A People’s History of Heaven.

Welcome to Heaven, a thirty-year-old slum hidden between brand-new high-rise apartment buildings and technology incubators in contemporary Bangalore, one of India’s fastest-growing cities. In Heaven, you will come to know a community made up almost entirely of women, mothers and daughters who have been abandoned by their men when no male heir was produced. Living hand-to-mouth and constantly struggling against the city government who wants to bulldoze their homes and build yet more glass high-rises, these women, young and old, gladly support one another, sharing whatever they can.

A People’s History of Heaven centers on five best friends, girls who go to school together, a diverse group who love and accept one another unconditionally, pulling one another through crises and providing emotional, physical, and financial support. Together they wage war on the bulldozers that would bury their homes, and, ultimately, on the city that does not care what happens to them.

This is a story about geography, history, and strength, about love and friendship, about fighting for the people and places we love–even if no one else knows they exist. Elegant, poetic, bursting with color, Mathangi Subramanian’s novel is a moving and celebratory story of girls on the cusp of adulthood who find joy just in the basic act of living.

Review:
This book took me by storm and I was immediately pulled into the world of these 5 young women living in a slum in Bangalore called Heaven. This is the story of these 5 girls: what their lives are like, what their home life is like, their expectations and how it’s different for men and boys, what it means to them to get an education, how they take care of each other and their community, what it is not to fit in, friendship, and acceptance.
The book goes back in time to describe how each girl got to where is is, what her challenges are — from being blind, transgender, gay, having fathers who leave — and what she dreams for herself as the bulldozers in the current day hover over their homes threatening to plow them over. It is also the story of their mothers and even grandmothers because all of these stories are intertwined. There are a lot of characters in this book, but I found it wasn’t overly difficult to keep track of them because they each had their own personality fleshed out so well.
This is a richly and wonderfully told story. The words and images that Subramanian conjures up are vivid, startling, and wonderful. There were some sentences that stopped me in my tracks and I had to read them over.
However, the flip side is that the writing was hard for me sometimes because it was so full of sentence fragments. They were not used sparingly for effect, but were used all the time. I imagine that it is simply the author’s style, but I found it halted the flow of the book. If this doesn’t bother you or you can get past it, then I would definitely recommend this book. It is an honest and important portrayal of the women and girls in Heaven.
Thank you to Netgalley and Algonquin Books for a review copy of this book.
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