I’ve been doing a whole lot of poetry for this blog, and not enough prose. I figured I should do something different for this post, and do a book review again.
I actually finished reading this book back in December; but between holiday chores and career transition tasks (I was switching from “employed content optimization manager” to “self-employed writer/editor”, which entailed a ridiculous amount of paperwork), I never got around to finishing a review draft I was satisfied with.
I eventually realized that I will never be satisfied (cue Hamilfan jeering), because I don’t think I can write a review that can justify how good I think “Instructions on How to Disappear” by Gabriela Lee is. So I might as well just post my ramblings and be done with it.
The final story, which gave the book its title, was actually a piece I’d read before—it was originally included in an anthology of speculative fiction. But I absolutely think it’s her best work and deserves its place as the collection’s coup de gras. The exploration of heartbreak and the state of fragility we all go through in its wake is truly masterful.
I’m getting ahead of myself, though. There are other stories in this book, stories that lead you to consider the horror of love and the nature of truth; memories and how they make us (or destroy us). They have dragons and monsters and destiny, advanced technology and strange fantasy.
One of my favorites is “This Side of the Looking Glass”, in which a girl is allowed to live a different version of her life. It’s a lovely exploration of how events in our lives shape us, and how “better” really is a matter of perspective.
Another is “Tabula Rasa”, in which the act of making love leads to stolen memories and how this loss becomes loss of self and ultimately the loss of being.
Finally, there is “Eyes Wide as the Sky”, in which there are literal ghosts of the past and questions on how far people are willing (or should be willing) to go in the name of survival.
These are the kinds of stories that inspire quiet contemplation after the first read, and languid savoring at the second (I assure you, you’ll want to read these stories again and again). This is the kind of book that you need to devour late at night, in the soft glow of warm lamplight with a rich chocolate drink spiked with liquor, when the shadows settle over your shoulders.
I highly recommend reading this book, especially when you’re in a pensive mood.
Copies of “Instructions on How to Disappear” can be found in National Bookstore and Fully Booked. Alternatively, you can buy it by emailing the publisher: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit the author’s website: Sometimes Sunlight.