Imagine growing up with a twin sister who you idolized and one day, at 11 years old, she’s no longer there. Simply vanished, run away and never returned. There’s no death, in which to seek closure. The thought of her being out there somewhere is ever present as you are forced to continue you life. For Elisabeth Pfauts, living in Tanacross, Alaska in 1941 this is reality. She sees the invisible presence of her sister in her daughter, Margaret. Having an unbreakable and incredibly strong bond with her sister, she’s never given up hope.
When Alfred, a German pilot, lands unexpectantly in Tanacross, he quickly befriends Elizabeth, who feels a moral obligation to extend hospitality to this gentleman, welcoming him into her family’s home. Something about this guy seems a bit off, but she dismisses it as the general uneasiness of having a stranger in her home while her husband is away for work. Alfred soon commits an inexplicable act of violence, followed by a starling revelation: he knows what happened to Elisabeth’s sister, but will only reveal the truth if she fulfills three requests.
Immediately filled with doubt, but the glimmer of hope of at last knowing what happened to her sister she’s feels a strong urge to play along. After all, Alfred has just validated her feelings of her sister really is still out there. How far is she willing to go to find out what happened? Is it worth potentially ripping apart her family? How can she trust the stranger who’s already committed a most handouts act?
How Quickly She Disappears has been compared to Silence of the Lambs. The comparison is very fair. However, personally, my only qualm with this novel is it seemed to be a bit too derivative of it. I don’t want that to take away from this being a great novel in its own right, but I would have appreciate a greater variation from Hannibal Lectar.
Beginning with the unsettling arrival of the pilot and ending with his and Elisabeth’s final confrontation in the woods, the evolution of their creepy cat-and-mouse game will captivate through the last page.
I’m honored to be featured on a blog tour of this amazing novel on its publication day! To help celebrate this book I’ve partnered with its publisher , Berkley, to host a giveaway of How Quickly She Disappears. This giveaway is running on my Instagram from Jan 14 – Jan 21. Be sure to enter and good luck!
A Conversation with Raymond Fleischmann
(From the publisher)
What are the main themes of the novel?
I’ve always been attracted to characters who do bad things for good reasons – or at least, what they think are good reasons. I like writing about characters who are at once intelligent but reckless, thoughtful but neurotic, will-intentioned but misguided. Theme comes from character, and from the writer’s own subconscious, and although it’s always difficult to generalize what a story is “about,” I’d say that this novel explores themes of isolation, loneliness, displacement, paranoia, obsession, and grief.
The first scene you wrote was one of a man lashed to a meat cache in Alaska. How did that image come to you? How did the story unfold from there?
With any story I’m writing, whether it’s a short story or a novel, I tend to imagine scenes for days or even weeks before I put a single word on the page. And that was how this novel began: I thought about it nonstop for days, but I didn’t write at all. I thought about its characters and their various motivations, which in turn made me think about potential scenes. And I knew that this scene in the meat cache would be the climax of the novel’s first section. It just had so much natural tension and intrigue to it, and even the setting itself felt evocative and interesting: the smell of the cured meat, the light slipping between the slats of the cache, this wide-eyed dangerous man restrained to a chair. The scene felt so clear to me that the rest of the first section fell into place quite easily around it. From the first draft of the novel to the final draft, the first section of the book is the most unchanged, and I think it’s due in large part to the groundwork laid intuit scene in the cache.
What do you want readers to take away from the novel?
I hope that my work strikes a chord with people in the same way that the novels of Flynn Berry and Ottessa Moshfegh have struck a chord with me: I hope that readers find my book to be exciting, interesting, and compulsively readable, while also finding it to be a thoughtful meditation on family, loneliness, grief, and obsession. I hope that my novel is fluid and entertaining, certainly, but as much as that I hope that readers find it to be emotionally rewarding and introspective.