Ways to Disappear

Ways to Disappear

by Idra Novey

Overview: Deep in gambling debt, the celebrated Brazilian writer Beatriz Yagoda is last seen holding a suitcase and a cigar and climbing into an almond tree. She abruptly vanishes.

In snowy Pittsburgh, her American translator Emma hears the news and, against the wishes of her boyfriend and Beatriz's two grown children, flies immediately to Brazil. There, in the sticky, sugary heat of Rio, Emma and her author's children conspire to solve the mystery of Yagoda's curious disappearance and staunch the colorful demands of her various outstanding affairs: the rapacious loan shark with a zeal for severing body parts, and the washed-up and disillusioned editor who launched Yagoda's career years earlier.

Idra Novey's exhilarating debut is both a novel of ideas and a novel of intrigue, an innovative combination of mystery, noir, and humor.

Judy Stanton (07/03/17): A quick read, with the shortest chapters ever, Ways to Disappear is cleverly written with intermittent email communications, definitions that are very specific to the person using the word, and details that only an author who is a translator herself would know. If you are up for an off beat, fantastical kind of read, you would enjoy this book. I think I'm too practical/reality based, so I had a hard time appreciating the relationships and personalities and the writings of the "author" who disappeared. Just a little too strange for me.
Rating: ***

Gail Reid (04/16/16): This short delightful book is the story of Emma, a translator of Portuguese literature, stuck in a low-level academic job in Pittsburgh with a boyfriend pushing too hard for marriage.

When Emma learns that her favorite Brazilian author disappears after last being seen in an almond tree smoking a cigar, she impetuously flies to Rio de Janeiro to find her. Turns out that the cigar-smoking author Beatriz Yagoda, a minor literary star with a waning career, has been gambling heavily on video poker. Convinced that clues to Beatriz's whereabouts can be found in her books, Emma joins forces with Beatriz's daughter, son, and editor to find her while staving off the nasty loan shark on her trail. Sales of Beatriz's books skyrocket and all of Brazil is caught up in this literary caper.

I thought this book, so smartly written and without pretension, provides a real insight into the relationship of a translator and an author. There's an element of magical realism in Beatriz's stories reinforced by the remote tropical locations where the searches end up. The characters all think they know the missing writer, but do they really? In the same way as "Where'd You Go Bernadette" this book is much more than the story of a disappearance.
Rating: *****

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