Book Review: Three Ways To Disappear by Katy Yocom

Three Ways To Disappear…

About the Book:

Leaving behind a nomadic and dangerous career as a journalist, Sarah DeVaughan returns to India, the country of her childhood and a place of unspeakable family tragedy, to help preserve the endangered Bengal tigers. Meanwhile, at home in Kentucky, her sister, Quinn—also deeply scarred by the past and herself a keeper of secrets—tries to support her sister, even as she fears that India will be Sarah’s undoing.

As Sarah faces challenges in her new job—made complicated by complex local politics and a forbidden love—Quinn copes with their mother’s refusal to talk about the past, her son’s life-threatening illness, and her own increasingly troubled marriage. When Sarah asks Quinn to join her in India, Quinn realizes that the only way to overcome the past is to return to it, and it is in this place of stunning natural beauty and hidden danger that the sisters can finally understand the ways in which their family has disappeared—from their shared history, from one another—and recognize that they may need to risk everything to find themselves again.

With dramatic urgency, a powerful sense of place, and a beautifully rendered cast of characters revealing a deep understanding of human nature in all its flawed glory, Katy Yocom has created an unforgettable novel about saving all that is precious, from endangered species to the indelible bonds among family.

My Thoughts:

‘A critically endangered top predator, the linchpin of entire ecosystems.’

Those who have been following along for a while now might have picked up on my love for eco-literature. You might have also seen a gravitational lean towards books featuring tigers. Three Ways To Disappear is the first novel I’ve had the pleasure of reading that combines these two interests: an environmental read about saving tigers, and it’s also set in India, a place I love to read about – it’s as if the universe whispered into Katy Yocom’s ear and compelled her to write my ideal novel.

‘“Everything is connected,” Sanjay said. “Protecting the tiger will protect every species of animal and plant that shares its habitat. The trees that scrub pollution from the air and the rivers that supply water to every living thing.”
“So to save the tiger is to save all of nature,” Jai said. “Including us.”’

I adored this novel. It more than lived up to my expectations. I’m not going to compare it to other recent eco-literature releases or to the works of other great novelists that write to these themes because in all honesty, Three Ways To Disappear is in a class of its own. The author is clearly passionate and knowledgeable about her subject and setting, but she has the skill as a writer to translate this into highly readable fiction. The reader is given a complete picture of what is happening in India to tigers, what’s being done to protect them and increase their numbers in the wild, and what the holistic challenges are – globally.

Three Ways To Disappear is not only a novel about tigers though. It’s also a story about a fractured family, two sisters who lost each other along the way from childhood to adulthood and need to find their way back to each other before they can fully experience everything their own lives have to offer. It’s about growing up in India as a westerner and longing for it once you’re wrenched away. It’s about cross-cultural love, grief, parental worry, marriage, being a daughter and a sister, trying to figure out who you are and what you want – connections, between people and nature.

‘It was too much. “You know what? If you think I’m making Nick smaller by worrying about him, you ought to see how small people get when they die. They just vanish, and it’s a sick fucking joke that life goes on and on and on without them. Every second of my life since then has been an insult to him. And you know what? It never goes away. The hole he left is always there. Do you understand that? It is still there. It’s the fucking stencil of my life.”’

I have so much love for this novel and would recommend it in a heartbeat. It’s a magnificent tribute to tigers, to India, and to the power of humanity when focused in on improving the lives of others along with preserving wildlife and protecting nature. India just comes to life within these pages, the beauty and despair, existing side by side. This novel travelled down rivers I never expected it to. Three Ways To Disappear may be Katy Yocom’s debut novel but she is no novice when it comes to writing. The way she connected humans and tigers within this novel was masterful. There is one particular scene near the end of the novel, that despite its tragedy, was uniquely uplifting for the possibilities it confirmed – that animals and humans can, have and do connect.


Thanks is extended to Ashland Creek Press and Smith Publicity Inc. via NetGalley for providing me with a copy of Three Ways To Disappear for review.

About the Author:

Katy Yocom’s fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in Salon, The Louisville Review, decomP magazinE, Midlife at the Oasis, and elsewhere. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and her poetry has been translated into Bulgarian. Her debut novel, Three Ways to Disappear, won the Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature and was a finalist for the Dzanc Books Disquiet Open Borders Book Prize and the UNO Press Publishing Lab Prize. Katy is a 2019 recipient of the Al Smith Fellowship Award for artistic excellence from the Kentucky Arts Council. She has received grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women and the Elizabeth George Foundation as well as writing residencies from Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts and Crosshatch Hill House. She holds an MFA in writing from Spalding University, codirects the Spalding at 21c reading series in Louisville, and serves on the board of the Kentucky Women Writers Conference. She lives with her husband and animal companions in Louisville, where she is associate director of Spalding’s low-residency MFA in Writing program.

Three Ways To Disappear
Published by Ashland Creek Press
Released 16th July 2019

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