Reviews for Notes on your sudden disappearance : a novel

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

When Sally Holt is 13, her 16-year-old sister, Kathy, is tragically killed in a car accident. Kathy's boyfriend, Billy, who was driving, swerved to avoid hitting a deer and ran into a tree. His jaw is broken in three places and he has other wounds; only Sally, sitting in the back seat, emerges unscathed. Sally’s parents blame Billy for the accident and despise him, but then something surprising happens: Sally, who has always had a crush on Billy, begins chatting with him online, and soon the two are talking on the phone, sometimes all night. This is the beginning of an off-and-on-again relationship that will last for years and creates the dramatic tension that drives the plot, inviting the question, Will they get to together or not? Espach (The Adults, 2011) employs an interesting narrative strategy in this character-driven novel: now 28, Sally, in a marvelous exercise in voice, tells the story of her life to her dead sister and of how she winds up in New York working at ABC and engaged to Roy, a successful lawyer, while Billy plans to become a friar. Never contrived, the novel is beautifully written, making even the quotidian details of Sally’s life fascinating, in part because the story invites such a deep emotional involvement with the fully realized characters and, indeed, with the entirety of this splendid and memorable book.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

When Sally Holt is 13, her 16-year-old sister, Kathy, is tragically killed in a car accident. Kathy's boyfriend, Billy, who was driving, swerved to avoid hitting a deer and ran into a tree. His jaw is broken in three places and he has other wounds; only Sally, sitting in the back seat, emerges unscathed. Sally’s parents blame Billy for the accident and despise him, but then something surprising happens: Sally, who has always had a crush on Billy, begins chatting with him online, and soon the two are talking on the phone, sometimes all night. This is the beginning of an off-and-on-again relationship that will last for years and creates the dramatic tension that drives the plot, inviting the question, Will they get to together or not? Espach (The Adults, 2011) employs an interesting narrative strategy in this character-driven novel: now 28, Sally, in a marvelous exercise in voice, tells the story of her life to her dead sister and of how she winds up in New York working at ABC and engaged to Roy, a successful lawyer, while Billy plans to become a friar. Never contrived, the novel is beautifully written, making even the quotidian details of Sally’s life fascinating, in part because the story invites such a deep emotional involvement with the fully realized characters and, indeed, with the entirety of this splendid and memorable book.


Library Journal
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After debuting with Adults, a New York Times Editors' Choice pick, Espach has us soaking up the sun one fervent summer, with eighth grader Sally Holt and her older sister, Kathy, eagerly eyeing oh-so-cool senior Billy Barnes as he works the concession stand at the pool. By summer's end, Billy and Kathy are a couple, but then tragedy descends, and Sally must face the consequences in a narrative that unfolds over 15 years. With a 150,000-copy first printing.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

In her second novel, Espach portrays a family coming to terms with, and never coming to terms with, the loss of their eldest daughter. As a young teenager, Sally Holt is in awe of her older sister, Kathy, who seems to have all the answers to life’s questions. But when Kathy dies in a car crash, Sally is left to grow up in the shadow of her loss. Espach makes an interesting choice in her title, describing the event not as a death but rather a disappearance. What’s the difference? The first means gone forever. The second is more ambiguous. Like Schrödinger’s cat, neither alive nor dead, the disappeared one lingers, always just about to walk in the door. As Sally progresses through high school and into adulthood, Kathy is frozen in place—a confidante she addresses throughout the novel. And Sally doesn’t beat around the bush. Her unflinchingly honest, sardonic take on the dissolution of her normal family life and coming to terms with loss makes the novel. It’s as if Sally’s parents have forgotten that they still have another daughter. When Sally’s mother turns to electroconvulsive shock therapy to blot out the memory of her first daughter, she loses the rest of her memory as well. Sally’s father engages in risky behavior, from alcoholism to cutting down old-growth trees in the yard (he found a tutorial on YouTube). Through Sally’s eyes, Espach crafts her characters with an emotional depth that powers the story while still leaving room for laughter. Espach’s character development also helps make the romantic plots feel fresh. The story of 28-year-old Sally’s relationship with her bland but stable fiance seems like it was pulled straight from the second half of Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle; a vanilla relationship provides the stability Sally needs even though they lack chemistry. On the other hand, Sally's relationship with Billy, Kathy’s boyfriend and the driver in the fateful accident, brings some Dawson’s Creek incestuousness. This tragicomic bildungsroman in the shadow of loss will invade your heart and hold on tight. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

A young woman addresses her older sister, who died when they were teens, in Espach’s inventive and powerful latest (after The Adults). Sally Holt, now 28, continues to find her life shaped by sister Kathy’s absence, prompting her to recount her life story, here unfolded in second-person narration. As a child, Sally is the subject of family concern because of her shyness, while Kathy, three years older, is comfortable in the spotlight and praised for her beauty. Despite the sisters’ contrasting temperaments, they are each other’s closest confidantes as they grow up in 1990s small-town Connecticut. Of particular interest to them both is high school senior Billy Barnes—a dreamy basketball player and the son of the town florist—who is in the grade above Kathy. After Billy saves 13-year-old Sally from drowning at the public pool, he begins dating Kathy, to Sally’s fascination and envy. A car accident involving all three teenagers permanently shifts the Holt family dynamic (“To sue for reckless driving or not to sue? That was the question,” Sally narrates, describing the tension between her parents over what to do about Billy, who was behind the wheel). In the aftermath, Billy and Sally unite in their shared grief and guilt. Espach captures the minutiae of love and loss with unflinching clarity and profound compassion, and pulls off the second-person point of view unusually well. Readers will be deeply moved. (May)

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