ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction

Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance, by Alison Espach

AVAILABLE May 17, 2022

Sixteen year old Kathy Holt is dead. That’s not a spoiler. It’s reality. It’s the catalyst for everything else that happens in Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance. If we haven’t experienced death of a young relative before, we’ve certainly heard of what it can do to families. Some take years to heal. Some never do, disintegrating into a shadow of their former selves. A slow, self-imposed suicide. Even tough people can crumble.

Narrated by Kathy’s younger sister, Sally, this novel explores a family’s grief over a period of fifteen years. It is like a letter to Kathy–the idolized, outgoing, courageous beacon in the Holt family. And that letter is BRILLIANTLY written. From angst-ridden teenager to confused college student to introspective adult, we follow Sally on her path as she supersedes her late sister in life’s milestones. Or is it mill stone? Because Kathy’s death weighs her down in everything she does. And, like a fateful boomerang, Sally continues to reconnect every few years with Billy, the only other witness of the tragedy. Billy Barnes. Bill. Kathy’s boyfriend.

There’s confusion, guilt, questions. So. Many. Questions. How can everything and everyone around me continue to move forward like nothing has happened? How can I ever be happy again? How can any of us live fully without feeling like we’re betraying the dead relative? Look at all the things she’ll never do.

I’m knocking one star off for language. I get that it’s teenagers. I get that swearing and talking about sex is a way for teens to experiment and sound cool with each other, but there was A LOT. I wasn’t comfortable with it. But Sally’s observations are so bittersweet and sarcastic, so determined in their clever efforts to lighten the load of loss, that I couldn’t help but keep reading. Even with the R-rated language it is one of the most well-written books I’ve read in a very long time. Believe me, a book has to be pretty amazing for me to be that forgiving. It was.

My thanks to NetGalley and Henry Holt & Company Publishing for the advanced copy.

9/10 Stars (If not for the language, I’d give it a 10.)

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