A famous Brazilian author named Beatriz Yagoda, last seen climbing into an almond tree holding a suitcase and a cigar, is at the heart of Idra Novey's bewitching first novel, Ways to Disappear. The story focuses on the people most determined to find her: Beatriz's longtime American translator, Emma, who has "come to trust her understanding of her author's impulses more than...her own"; Beatriz's daughter, Raquel, who's never read her mother's books and has "no patience for the illusion that you could know someone because you knew her novels." Then there's her son, Marcus, whose "radioactive-green eyes" and bartending gig at a Rio club land him all the women he can handle, and her original publisher, Roberto Rocha, who has lately found himself purveying works he considers the equivalent of cheap cuts of steak when he prefers books that are "tender in the middle yet still heavy enough to blacken the air."
The amateur sleuths pick up many unsettling clues along the way, including that Beatriz was drowning in gambling debt. No one stays the same in the course of this adventure, but it's perhaps Emma who undergoes the starkest transformation. In the absence of the writer whose words she's hidden behind, she begins composing her own fiction and embarks on a passionate affair. She recalls Beatriz's advice: "For translation to be an art...you have to make the uncomfortable but necessary transgressions that artists make."
Novey, a translator herself, has crafted a tale of playful suspense that ingeniously transmutes into a profound meditation on language and love.