Ways to Disappear

"Whether a beautiful sentence moves you or leaves you cold, Brazilian literature has lost a piece of its soul today." Poet and translator Idra Novey (Exit, Civilian) begins her first novel, Ways to Disappear, with a peculiar bit of breaking news: the celebrated novelist Beatriz Yagoda carried a suitcase into an almond tree and has not been seen since. While this is understandably a very distressing turn of events for Beatriz's two adult children, Raquel and Marcus, the novelist's American translator, Emma, takes the next flight to Rio to help search for the woman whose work has become Emma's obsession.

Novey writes with tremendous insight and a wistful appreciation for the elusive nature of language. While Beatriz's son, daughter and translator negotiate with a fat cat publisher, dangerous loan sharks, cultural differences and their own stewing emotions, Novey's writing wrestles with the difficult natures of translation and meaning. As the plot thickens and the stakes are raised with sexual tension and threats of violence, she interjects pointed dictionary definitions. For example, "Jackpot: Americanism; of uncertain origin. 1. A substantial win.... 3. A word used to justify risking more in pursuit of something unlikely."

But that is not to say that Ways to Disappear is dry and academic--quite the opposite! With lean, incisive prose Novey delivers a bright, unpredictable novel that is both playful and vulnerable. It is an adventurous mystery set in a tropical paradise that is sure to leave you breathless, whether a beautiful sentence moves you or not. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

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