Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance

Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance
by Alison Espach
Recommended Ages: 15+

Sally narrates this novel in the second person, addressing her older sister, Kathy. As adolescents, they both have a crush on the same boy – a strapping basketball star, one year ahead of Kathy in school, named Billy. Eventually, Billy and Kathy become an item. Then one morning, when they're late for school, Billy crashes his car into a tree and Kathy is killed. This touches off a complex journey of grieving, self-blame and neurosis for both Billy and Sally as well as her parents, to say nothing of an on- and off-again love story between the surviving boy and girl.

It isn't so much that Sally and her folks cope in different ways. It's how they fail to cope, and how they somehow go on living while not really ever healing. It's a risqué, gut-wrenching, withhold-nothing depiction of surviving the loss of a vibrant family member, never able to fully accept that they're gone, and continuing to look for them in the strangest places for, like, 15 years after their quote-unquote "disappearance." Adult and maybe Occult Content Advisories apply. (Expect the eff word, as well as some actual effing, as well as the involvement of a kind of psychic adviser, in these pages).

Another advisory is perhaps due: Prepare to be emotionally wrecked. There were moments in this book that actually made me cry. If one begins to wonder how an author of not very many books managed to reach so deeply into the emotional well of grief, the answer might be hidden in the acknowledgments where she thanks her brother Michael for the time she had with him on earth. If condolences are in order, I give them.

Like her protagonist, author Alison Espach grew up in Connecticut and went to an out-of-state university (Wash U in St. Louis, a campus I've actually been on!). Besides being a teacher in New York City, she has also written the novel The Adults and the novella Somebody's Uncle, both 11 years before this book, as well as the upcoming novel The Wedding People, slated for release July 30, 2024.

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