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Book Review: The Disappearing, A Novel by Lori Roy

Roy Peter Clark



This is my first book review for The Catalyst, and it should be taken with not just a grain, but a shaker of salt.  It begins will the full disclosure that I am friends with the author, that I have recruited her on occasion to teach writing with me at the Poynter Institute, that we appear now and then together at bookstores, that we enjoy drinking coffee at the Banyan, and that the coincidence of my first name and her last name has given birth to the Roy and Roy Show.

That said, I would never promote a book just because a friend wrote it.  That is too generous a favor.  Someone will read my review, buy the book, hate the book, be pissed at me and, worst of all, not buy any of MY books.  When it comes to disclosure, folks, I’m full of it.

Please believe me when I tell you, then, that The Disappearing is an exciting, interesting, gripping tale, set in the creepy South, a tale that kept me turning the pages, even when the Rays went on a six game winning streak, even when South Korea beat Germany in the World Cup.

Lori Roy, a resident of the Sunshine City, is more interested in moonshine, lavender fields, cypress knees, bug spray, bat caves, limestone slabs and holes where people like to swim, even though it usually doesn’t work out too well.

Lori is the prize-winning author of Bent Road, Until She Comes Home, and Let Me Die in his Footsteps, all compelling yarns, but she has taken her work to a new level with The Disappearing.  Before Shakespeare got to Hamlet, he wrote Titus Andronicus, reminding us that it takes most authors some time to unwind.

The new level of tension, and meaning, in the novel derives from two dark episodes in the history of the State of Florida.  One goes back to the late 1970s when a notorious serial killer terrified the state, murdering young women until his capture, trial, and execution via an electric chair named Old Sparky.  The other goes back longer, to a reformed school in the Panhandle, where young men were brutally beaten, and where some disappeared only to be found decades later buried in unmarked graves.

Young women across the country disappeared, victims of a serial killer.  Young men at the reform school disappeared, some as runaways, some by criminal violence. Get it? The Disappearing.

Parallel events occur in Lori Roy’s novel, which shifts craftily in perspective from one key character to another.  Two families and a town are haunted by the disappearance of not one, but two young women.  No need to spoil the rest of the adventure.  Let’s just say that every time I thought I knew the answer to the questions “dead or alive?” or “who done it?” the author yanked me down another passageway.

I asked Lori one recent morning at the Banyan coffee shop if she agreed with my characterization of the genre in which she excels.  The Disappearing, I suggested, was “Southern gothic domestic noir.”  As I write that phrase, I realize it contains four adjectives.  That’s the difference between the two Roys.  She gets to title her books Bent Road or The Disappearing.  I have to settle for The Glamour of Grammar or How to Write Short.  Who knows?  My next book might be called Four Adjectives in Search of a Noun.

[Roy Peter Clark has taught writing at the Poynter Institute since 1977.  He has written or edited 18 books, most of them with boring titles.  He lives in St. Pete with his wife Karen and a prodigal feral cat named The Duchess.]     

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