Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach

The loss of a child brings the kind of inconsolable grief that defies comprehension. I was glued to the news yesterday as the reports of a horrific school shooting broke across the US. This too common occurrence hit me with sadness, frustration, and hopelessness. It probably didn't help that I was nearly finished reading a book that hit very close to the subject matter. Alison Espach's Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance deals with the tragic death of a child and its impact on the family. When I accepted a copy of the novel from the publisher, I was drawn to the summery image on the cover, unaware of what the book was actually about. Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance is an ode to the family bond and the power of love in spite of despair. It amounts to a literary journey that is far more emotional and impactful than your typical summer read. 

It is safe to say that Sally Holt idolizes her older sister, Kathy. Sally loves that her sister seems to know everything about everything. The pair are inseparable as they spend that last summer together. Sally soaks up every moment and bit of information as she prepares to start her first year in high school. Kathy develops a crush on Billy, the attractive boy who has drawn the eye of many of the local girls since his daredevil antics back in the fifth grade. Before the end of the summer, Billy and Kathy officially begin dating, and they reluctantly let Sally tag along. It isn't unusual then that Billy and Kathy give in to Sally's begging and agree to take her to school. By the end of the day, Kathy will be dead, and Billy and Sally will be left to pick up the pieces. 

The next fifteen years see Sally learning to live in her sister's absence. She has lost the one person she could trust, confide in, and just be herself with. Sally can't help but blame Kathy's death on herself. She was the one who insisted Billy and Kathy drive her to school that day. Had she not done so, her sister may still have been alive. The impact of Kathy's death doesn't stop with Sally. We see Billy struggling to accept his hand in the tragedy, turning away from his bright future to a self-destructive path that no one can stop him from following. The parents of both girls are equally impacted. Their relationship devolves into one party unable to accept the reality of their loss as the other simply wants to move past it. All of this comes together to form a somber coming of age story that you can't help but absorb. 

Everyone deals with heartbreak differently. Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance sees Alison Espach present her own contemplations upon grief and loss through the eyes of a young woman directly in the process of dealing with it. By having the younger sister of the tragically lost girl narrate the novel, we are provided with an intimate view of a family and community dealing with their agony. Despite the melancholy subject matter, I was struck by how funny the book could be. The dichotomy between grief and humor seems to go hand in hand. After all, there cannot be darkness without light to compare it against. Espach never dares to pretend to have any answers. Grieving is such a personal process, that it would be impossible to say whether this is the right or wrong way. Instead, she writes an intimate novel that allows her characters to naturally go through life, making decisions that seem authentic to each of them. This is a powerful novel that delves into subject matter that may not be everyone's ideal reading material. Still, I'm glad to have read and experienced this thoughtfully written narrative. 

For more information visit the author's website, Amazon, and Goodreads

(2022, 20)

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 25, 2022 and is filed under ,,,,,,,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

12 Responses to “Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach”

  1. I've seen many good things on this book on Instagram and with you now liking it, I'll add it to the TBR!

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    1. It was emotional, but well worth the read!

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  2. The exploration of the fallout of a grave loss can go either way. I actually really enjoy grief and loss books, but I think all the ones I have read were hopeful by the end. I am not getting that vibe from here.

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    1. This one sees each character come through grief in their own way. While I wouldn't say it is all a happy ending, there is resolution that feels earned.

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  3. I hadn't heard of this one before now. Thanks for letting us know about it.

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  4. It sounds very powerful, and heartbreaking to think about

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  5. Wow. There are many things to commend about this book, but honestly that the author infuses humour into such dark (emotionally) subject matter is what would convinced me to pick i up ASAP — Verushka @ Pop. Edit. Lit.

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    1. I agree. The humor really helps to humanize and round out the characters who would otherwise be more one note.

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  6. Sounds like a very intense, hard to read about topic but done well - especially if the author is able to add humor in a way that works.

    Karen @For What It's Worth

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    1. The more I reflect on this one, the more I appreciate it.

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