Julia Phillips

Cindy Seip

Julia Phillips’s writing has appeared in Glimmer Train, The Atlantic, Slate, and The Moscow Times. She studied Russian at Barnard and secured a Fulbright scholarship to visit Russia. One August afternoon, on the shoreline of Kamchatka, a peninsula at the northeastern edge of Russia, two girls–sisters, eight and eleven–go missing. In the ensuing weeks and months, the police investigation turns up nothing. Echoes of the disappearance reverberate across a tightly woven community, with the fear and loss felt most deeply among its women. Julia Phillips’s debut novel Disappearing Earth (Knopf) takes us through a year in Kamchatka, visiting in the process the worlds of a cast of richly drawn characters, all connected by the crime: a witness, a neighbor, a detective, a mother. We are transported to vistas of rugged beauty–densely wooded forests, open expanses of tundra, soaring volcanoes, and glassy seas. But this is a region as complex as it is alluring, a place where social and ethnic tensions have long simmered. Disappearing Earth reveals the intricate bonds of family and community in a Russia we have not seen before. The New York Times Book Review called Disappearing Earth “A superb debut—brilliant. Daring, nearly flawless. […] Phillips describes the region with a cartographer’s precision and an ethnographer’s clarity, drawing an emblematic cast . . . There will be those eager to designate Disappearing Earth a thriller by focusing on the whodunit rather than what the tragedy reveals about the women in and around it.”