Thoughts on All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage
It's almost fall-ish and like countless others it's one of my favorite seasons. I like to think it's because I was born in November. But another factor is getting to ditch the shorts and skirts I've been wearing nonstop for the past 4 months and finally reach for jeans again. To get you in the mood for fall or winter I suggest the novel All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage. I read this earlier this year and powered through it in a matter of days, it was that enthralling.
I enjoy murder, mystery, thriller type books and this one is unique because it isn't typical to any of these genre. Genre bending books that are hard to classify neatly are another personal favorite. One of the many reasons this book was so hard for me to stop reading. Even though the murder of one of the main characters happens at the beginning it doesn't consume the entire book and we get to see portraits of different characters throughout the story via flashbacks and the present.
All the characters felt authentic and their impulses are on display or carefully hidden. I won't spoil the story but this is not a road to redemption which is sometimes hard to swallow as a reader. It doesn't always feel true to real life. What is more plausible is people slightly tweaking their lives and sensibilities rather than turning a full 180. The main characters are a couple and the wife winds up dead in the first couple of pages. You want to feel sorry for the husband but have a sneaking suspicion that he doesn't feel as morose as he should.
A ghost story is peppered throughout the story and the first page offers foreshadowing about the house and town. This was a slow burn but it was done so well with changing perspectives so you really get to see characters through their own eyes and others. The memories made in this small town don't fade. This story doesn't romanticize small towns as cutesy and idyllic. New people will always be looked at with suspicion and the only way to earn their trust is through years of being on your best behavior or keeping up appearances.
This story deep dives into characters so you will truly understand their motivations and see people fleshed out that seem familiar. They are authentic and real no matter where you live. Most of the action takes place in upstate New York but I felt like some of these people could universally be found anywhere. It's a great play on the deception that you can trick others into thinking your life is great but the pageantry won't convince you. This type of brainwashing doesn't usually work on you. Doing what you think is best for others over yourself sometimes doesn't work out if you don't desire it.
There is a lot of tragedy and death throughout the book but it serves a purpose and not just for gore. It turns the ordinary suffering of a few lonely individuals into something more. Suffering transforms people and brings them together in surprising ways. Nothing is as expected and that keeps you guessing until the end. I appreciated the ending even though I feared the murderer wouldn't get their punishment in the end. It wraps up everyone's stories but takes a little longer to get the justice we've been craving since the beginning. This could test your patience but the payoff is worth it.
I appreciate a good intellectual mystery where what happens next is never expected. Everything that happens in this story makes sense even the things we wish didn't happen. I recommend this to anyone who wants to read a multifaceted story about tragedy and places binding people together. The struggle to realize what your life is and what it isn't. The struggle to figure out who the villain is and if they have been hiding in plain sight all along.
This is also for anyone who likes a novel that invites true introspection and doesn't give you any easy answers for all the questions it asks. This is definitely not a light, beach read. If you want to use your brain and revisit old opinions give this book a shot.