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All Things Cease to Appear: A novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 8, 2016
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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“Mesmerizing . . . Extraordinarily gripping and suspenseful . . . A beautifully written novel that works on many levels. It is thoughtful and lyrical, a penetrating study of a psychopath and a deeply disturbing portrait of a doomed marriage, but also a meditation on the deceptiveness of all appearances and on ‘the big fairy tale of America.” —Kate Horsley, Crimeculture
“A marriage, a sociopath, a family destroyed by the economy, the things we do for love—all finely drawn. . . . All of the [cast] are sympathetic and suspicious in equal measure, a result of Brundage’s ability to peel away the onionskin layers of emotion that define any relationship. As the clues accumulate and the killer is revealed, the truth becomes both horrifying and inevitable. In the end, justice is done and redemption found, though not at one might expect, which makes the book all the more satisfying.” —Vanessa Friedman, The New York Times Book Review
“A beautifully written treat. . . . as much a disturbing portrait of family and town life as it is a provocative mystery.” —Estelle Tang, Elle
“Unsettling, spellbinding . . . All Things Cease to Appear is a lot of things. It is part mystery, part ghost story. It is infused with the Swedenborgian ideals of marriage and the spiritual world. It is also very much about family, about what can hold a family together and what can tear it asunder. How the disparate pieces of the novel come together into a satisfying whole is its strength . . . Brundage’s novel is indeed ambitious. It is also just plain riveting.” —Steven Whitton, The Anniston Star
“Lyrically written, frequently shocking and immensely moving . . . It was, perhaps, for such extraordinary books that the term ‘literary thriller’ was coined . . . Reading this book is at once wrenching and exhilarating, thanks to Ms. Brundage’s prose, which can make you gasp in astonishment or break your heart with a single line.” —Tom Nolan, The Wall Street Journal
“Exquisitely gut-churning . . . Brundage’s elegant exploration of motive—in all its directions—sets this book apart . . . Paranormal activity hangs in the atmosphere [and] Brundage takes us compellingly inside the perverse machinations of a violently narcissistic mind [that] recalls Patricia Highsmith’s talented Mr. Ripley . . . Brundage’s language is the real draw, with her vivid portraits of spouses on opposite sides of a brutal abyss.” —Sarah Begley, Time
“[A] dark, chilling drama.” —Tina Jordan, Entertainment Weekly
“Transcendent . . . Tragedy leaves an indelible mark on both people and places in Brundage’s piercing new novel. Party mystery, part ghost story, and entirely brilliant.” —Liza Oldham, Library Journal
“Insightful, evocative.” —People, “Book of the Week”
“Slightly Gothic, socially perceptive, and briskly written… Set in a seemingly haunted farmhouse is a rapidly gentrifying Hudson Valley town, the complex literary thriller ranges across generations of traumatized, interwoven families.” —Boris Kachka, New York
“Superb…think a more literary, and feminist, Gone Girl. As the seemingly perfect marriage at its core reminds us, the most lethal deceptions are the stories we tell ourselves.” —Megan O’Grady, Vogue
“Brundage’s searing, intricate novel epitomizes the best of the literary thriller, marrying gripping drama with impeccably crafted prose, characterizations, and imagery. . . . Moving fluidly between viewpoints and time periods, Brundage’s complex narrative requires and rewards close attention. Succeeding as murder mystery, ghost tale, family drama, and love story, her novel is both tragic and transcendent.” —Publishers Weekly [boxed review]
“All Things Cease to Appear is a riveting ghost story, psychological thriller, and literary page turner. It’s also the story of four women: Ella, Catherine, Justine, and Willis. With masterful skill and brilliant empathy, Brundage brings each of them to vivid and remarkable life. At its heart, this is a story about women’s grit and courage, will and intelligence. It’s a powerful and beautiful novel.” —Kate Christensen
“At once high art and a spellbinding thriller, this is a book of many wonders, including a character as creepily sinister as any created by Patricia Highsmith.” —Beverly Lowry
“Brundage’s brilliant new novel is as terrifyingly unsettling—and as beautiful—as cracking ice over a raging river. Part murder mystery, part ghost story, it’s also a profound look at how past guilt informs the present, how what we yearn for is not always what we get, and how it’s not only houses that can be haunted, but people as well. One of the most ambitious, original and gorgeously written novels that I’ve ever read—and been unable to forget.” —Caroline Leavitt
“A dynamic portrait of a young woman coming into her own [and] of a marriage in free fall. . . . It rises to [great] literary heights and promises a soaring mix of mysticism.” —Booklist (starred review)
“A classic murder mystery [combined] with a gripping psychological thriller, exploring the complexities of grief, relationships—romantic, familial and friendly—and small-town life.” —Haley Herfurth, BookPage
“I bloody loved this. I could have taken weeks over it, lingering on the harmony and beauty of her language and the creeping delicacy of what was going on - but the plot and the people pull you in. It’s an iceberg in disguise. Beneath the daisies and farmhouses, the drinks parties and local dramas something grand, tense and terrifying is shifting, between men and women, between townies and newcomers, between adults and children. And then a crack shoots through - unexpected light, the clarity of hatred, inevitability...” —Louisa Young
About the Author
ELIZABETH BRUNDAGE graduated from Hampshire College, attended NYU film school, was a screenwriting fellow at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, and received an MFA as well as a James Michener Award from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She has taught at a variety of colleges and universities, most recently at Skidmore College, where she was visiting writer-in-residence. She lives near Albany in upstate New York.
Top customer reviews
The story, told entirely in flashbacks following the grisly murder of Catherine Clare, follows the fortunes of two families who reside in a farmhouse near Albany New York in the 1970s. The Hale family's mother and father commit suicide in the house after their dairy business goes belly-up, leaving behind three boys and a cursed house no-one wants to buy. At least until historical art professor, George Clare, starting a job in a nearby private college, scoops up the property at an auction and takes up residence with his wife Catherine and young daughter, Franny.
The Hale farmhouse turns out to be every bit as haunted as Stephen King's Overlook Hotel, as Catherine and other perceptive characters feel the ghostly presence of the deceased Mrs. Hale. The ominous house, combined with Catherine's growing awareness of her murderer's true nature, generate a creepy suspense even though the identity of the murderer is not hidden for long from the reader.
Brundage is a terrific writer, and she has brought this small town and its characters to life as fully and convincingly as possible. Her infusion of the supernatural also works well, as it enhances the creepiness of the story and supports her theme that there's a spiritual dimension to our existence. Where the novel falls short for me, however, is in the logistics of the crime investigation. As a lawyer, it was hard for me to believe that the circumstantial evidence left behind by the murderer would have been insufficient to support a guilty verdict, much less a decision to arrest and prosecute. For that reason alone, what could have been a five-star rating, dropped to four.
Several themes are woven into the novel. Poverty and quiet class struggle, the emerging feminism of the Seventies, religion and spirituality and physical and psychological abuse in the home...a secret that families keep to themselves. Evil is everywhere, almost a separate character, with several of the human characters stepping in and out of the role. So is ambiguity. Even George, perhaps a clinical psychopath, is played subtly and masterfully.
Brundage never rushes, never stereotypes, never overplays her hand. This is a wonderful, haunting book from a fine writer.