From the remote Siberian taiga to the harsh American frontier, from rural Long Island to postwar Belgium, Masih's characters are diverse in identity and circumstance, defying the burden of erasure by disappearing into or emerging from physical and emotional landscapes.
This is Masih’s third book, and it could just as well be described as a sketched map. Maps don’t need words for meaning to shine through. All you need is a key. Masih is working with the same type of silences that maps do ... The sensuality of the writing and its focus on the natural environment is perhaps the strongest quality in this book. Masih holds the same space for the hills, grasses, and snow, as for the myriad characters ... Masih writes almost all of the stories in the precarious present tense, where the past and the future rupture the moment, propelling the narrative forward with little for perspective ... Each character, one by one, acts instead of speaks. Each character makes a decision and then, one step at a time, continues into the sun, into the clouds, into the rushing grasses, leaving the reader with nothing but the story as a key.
Impressive ... Luscious descriptions of the natural world help to illuminate a theme bonding these thirteen diverse stories: the mysterious human heart in search of itself and its place in the world ... The whole last section is a lyrical, place-laden resolution of healing, a way to move forward after tragedy; a rare and precious thing, for the reader as well as for Mercy ... Rarer is the writer who leaves no traces of herself, allowing the characters to wield their own singular voices, yet Masih has achieved it in each of her far-ranging yet intimate stories. Some characters yearn to disappear, some for only a time, ultimately realizing their paths follow or align with another; some characters have no choice. But they all do what the best of fiction does, they stay with the reader.
Exceptional ... Presents a sprawling range of characters, unique voices, and exotic settings ... How We Disappear showcases the considerable talents of Masih, particularly in creating characters that manage to feel unique and yet familiar at the same time, and settings so full of sensory details they become characters in themselves. This fine collection is a worthy addition to any bookshelf.