Published: February 9, 2016
“Ways to Disappear” is a humorous mystery novel whose protagonist is an American woman in Brazil, searching for the woman whose novels she translates into English. The author utilizes hilarity, magical realism, stories within stories, imagery, and subtleties of word meaning to create her lovable, lyrical, beautiful novel.
Emma, the protagonist, feels very close to her author, Beatriz Yagoda, through her works as well as her yearly visits with her. Once she hears that Beatriz has disappeared, seeming into a tree with her suitcase and cigar, she immediately packs her bag and heads to Brazil, much to the chagrin of her boyfriend. Brazil, and the exciting search for Beatriz, seem a separate and freer world for Emma, one where she is happier and more herself.
The events that ensue are hilarious. The characters are interesting and perfectly described. I thought the subtext about the difference between American and Brazilian ways of life very accurate and entertaining.
I couldn’t help wondering while reading this novel if the author was a translator herself, which I realized at the end of reading, that she was. Now I wonder how much of the novel has a root of truth versus fantasy of her own.
- How would you describe the relationship between Miles and Emma?
- What is the reaction of Marcus and Raquel when Emma arrives?
- What differences in culture between Brazil and the United States are highlighted in the book?
- Why do you think that Beatriz uses characters from her novels when contacting Rocha? What additional meaning does this lend her communications with him?
- Do you think that Raquel questioned her paternity prior to reading the manuscript on her mother’s computer?
- Do you believe that Beatriz is still alive at the end?
- The novel is preceded with the following quote: “For a time we became the same word. It could not last.” by Edmond Jabes, Translated by Rosmarie Waldrop. How does this relate to Indra Novey’s novel?