How We Disappear: Novella & Stories by Tara Lynn Masih

Again, I have this urge to apologize- for the pasta, for the dust from my shoes, for the hair I’m shedding in record amounts, for my fingerprints on the mirror. For my confused presence.

This is a beautifully written collection of stories, whether haunted by the past, oneself or comforted by a ghost that asks nothing of you, there is a statement made in disappearing. There is always something to unpack when a character has one foot in the spirit world and the other in the living, whether you believe it’s genuine or psychological. The meaning of ghosts is clever here, as in the first story What You Can’t See In The Picture, time has passed, images on CCTV are themselves ghost moments, whether the people captured in footage are still living or dead the point is, they are ghosts the character has to bring back to life. It’s her job, to find criminals or the last moments of those gone missing. She must piece together and help solve mysteries. The ghost in Fleeing Gravity is a Wolf, a viscous hunter destroying cattle and sheep, terrorizing the cattle ranchers and sheep farmers. The beast is tracked and killed, eventually, on the same night Brandy is born. His Cree mother tells him that some of the spirit left the ‘divine animal’ and entered him. He grows up unsure of what he is, Indian? Wolf? White? The natural world speaks to him, he is pained by the trees that must be felled by his father, men like him on their mountain, who make their living in lumber. It is during lean times he grows up, with rough love, but soon his life with them will only be an echo of the past. His haunting journey turns supernatural when he leaves his tribe and the basin. Through his travels he finds work at a pioneer ghost town, and this is where his heart finds anchor. It’s eerie and beautiful. He finds a home lost to time, in a sense, and the historical fiction swimming through the tales are fascinating. The Wolf hauntings began during the great depression and the hard scrabble living of his mother and father is a reminder of an earlier America. It’s interesting how people are molded by the times, none of us escapes this.

Disappearing can be a retreat, a choice. Agatha Christie, the famous English Writer known for her detective stories, learned how to be released from silence in youth and later during her marriage found a trick to escape the pain and noise of her life, even if it had to be stolen. I felt my heart crack in this tale of abandonment, the cold wind of betrayal and the hunger to just get through it, to learn how to live again. Sometimes our former selves are phantoms too.

Characters mourn the loss of connections, those made and bonds that were never born, are victims of abduction, live vague lives, speak to the spirit of their mother in the mouth of a snake, walk upon piles of mayflies, and struggle with the hurt of being a mystery to their partner. Characters live in places that others pass by, leave notes to the world they have chosen to leave behind, are branded by memories, or pluck chickens on a family farm. They are all waiting for something to happen or learning how to move on from the strange or tragic turn their lives have taken. Some seek comfort through clairvoyance, others through running away but all of them confront disappearance in many forms. The stories are engaging, rich inventions full of depth and meaning. I look forward to reading more by Tara Lynn Masih, not all short stories pluck the heartstrings.

Publication Date: September 13, 2022

Press 53

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