Anyone who grew up in the suburbs will recognize the kind of accident at the heart of Alison Espach's novel...High-schooler Billy Barnes is driving his girlfriend Kathy Holt and her younger sister Sally to school one morning; he isn't drunk and he isn't reckless but he's distractible and inexperienced, and, swerving from a deer, he hits a tree, killing Kathy...The novel is Sally's story, told when she is 28 and addressed to the memory of her sister...It is a confessional about the effects Kathy's death had on their Connecticut town, on their struggling parents and on Sally's own passage into adulthood...The novel is congruously funny...This is the humor of irony and conversational banter, the deflections used when intense grief threatens to overwhelm ordinary middle-class existence.
Told over the course of 15 years, Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance is a seamless blend of genres: wry, humorous coming-of-age; star-crossed love story; and, above all, an achingly honest portrayal of grief...While maintaining a beautiful, touching, melancholic tone throughout, the book is neither dreary nor depressing, but rather a riveting blend of raw human emotions as seen and expressed through a truly singular voice...Sally's observations are searing, provocative and often hilarious, and although the shadow of grief hangs over them, so too does the bright, wise-beyond-her-years girl shine from inside them.
Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance is about the crushing mantle of guilt...It's also a love story...It takes Sally and Billy pages to get together and learn how to let go of Kathy, and in the meantime they try to discover who they are...It might be a little uncomfortable for readers to watch this eighth grader grow up and develop a relationship with a boy she knew as a high school senior who dated her dead sister, but Espach handles the situation with sensitivity...Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance is a story about love, sisterhood and the power of acceptance...It's a lovely novel, and if readers can ignore its small flaws, they will be in for a real treat.
Espach 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.
A young woman addresses her older sister, who died when they were teens, in Espach's inventive and powerful latest...Sally Holy, 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...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 car accident involving all three teenagers permanently shifts the Holt family dynamic...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.
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.