Set in early 1940s New England, Emily Bain Murphy’s debut novel, The Disappearances, follows 16-year-old Aila Quinn and her younger brother, Miles. The two are struggling after the recent death of their mother, Juliet, and their father’s departure to fight in World War II. Left alone, they must travel to their mother’s mysterious hometown of Sterling, Connecticut, to stay with family friends.
When they arrive, Aila discovers the townspeople have been suffering “Disappearances” every seven years. These fantastical losses include the ability to smell, to see the stars and to see their own reflections. Aila and Miles don’t understand why everyone blames their mother until Aila begins to unravel Juliet’s mysterious past. Why was she able to break free of the curse? Why did Juliet leave notes in a book of William Shakespeare’s works?
Bain deftly weaves these threads together as Aila discovers not only her mother’s secrets but also her own identity. By setting the novel in a time before the internet, Bain thoroughly conveys the sense of strange isolation of Sterling’s residents and their troubles. In the end, The Disappearances is a delicious mix of mystery, fantasy and romance.
Jennifer Bruer Kitchel is the librarian for a Pre-K through 8th level Catholic school.