The book in one sentence: When prominent Brazilian author Beatriz Yagoda climbs into a tree and disappears, Emma, her translator flies from Pittsburg to Rio in search of her.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Long story short: If you’re looking for a fun/weird mystery and a quick read, this may be the book for you. The story is fast-paced and Idra Novey does a good job of setting up and drawing out the suspense. However, I think it ends a little too neatly, too conveniently, given the events of the book and I would have preferred a more open-ended outcome. If you like having closure, you’ll like the ending.
The plot is definitely intriguing but my favorite thing about the book is the writing and structure of the novel. The storyline itself is fairly straightforward, represented by a writing style that is descriptive and linear (i.e., A happens, then B, then C). On the other hand, Emma’s thought process and musings, the way she tries to make sense of Beatriz’s disappearance, are expressed in a very lyrical and whimsical prose. Then finally, Novey’s larger commentary about interpretation and misinterpretation, close reading, structure, fantasy, the relationship between author and translator, and ways of making meaning is its own distinct layer. I couldn’t get enough of Novey’s poetic prose and wanted to see more elements of magical realism (which is how she describes Yagoda’s writing) in the plot of the novel itself.
Ways to Disappear was a nice way to start my 2021 reading challenge and if you have suggestions for other works that are similar and you think I might like, drop them in the comments below!