Member Reviews

A bartender/author finds herself in a small town in Kentucky researching a photo of a woman holding a baby as she prepares to jump to her death. As the story unfolds in a slow yet satisfying pace , the author becomes more vested in the story behind the photographer and the photo. A study of characters who are not w they appear to be on the surface. A pastor, A mechanic, A teenage girl all have secrets. Touches on mental illnesses and early treatments. Well written and I will read more from this author.

Copy provided by the publisher and Netgalley

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I'm starting this review before I've even finished the book because I already know it's a 5 ⭐ read for me. Fiona Davis said it best, this book truly is "hauntingly beautiful" and I can't believe it hasn't gotten more attention. I couldn't put it down! I was engrossed in it, devoured it in less than a day. The synopsis hooked me in immediately, but it doesn't give much away about the stories within the book and I don't want to say too much either to avoid spoiling. I can only say READ IT. This is a historical mystery alternating between present day with Julia and various characters from the 1960s as Julia unravels the mystery of the photograph and woman on the bridge. It's not the typical mystery book where you're left wondering whodunit. Instead, the author slowly unfolds the story layer by layer and as the reader you're taken on a journey of heartbreak, healing and discovery. The last few chapters broke me.

There are many themes in this book still very relevant in today's society such as mental health and LGBTQ+ representation. I appreciate the author showing the now outdated practices of how doctors once treated those dealing with anxiety and depression, and how we can still do more today.

This book will stay with me and be a top recommendation of mine.

(Also, I love Quinn and her raw fettuccini noodle bookmark.)

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In what appears to be his debut novel, Nathan Gower has written a propulsive historical mystery that captured my interest from the beginning, and kept me reading much of the afternoon. Julia is a young writer whose first book had rather disappointing sales. But a famous photographer has read it, and approaches her with a proposal: to research and write the story behind a photograph he took decades earlier, but has never displayed. Her research takes her to a small town in Kentucky, where readers are also introduced to Kate, a young girl growing up in the 1960s with the stigma of a mentally ill mother who's the subject of town gossip.

Gower alternates the narration between these two main characters, and slowly reveals both historical and contemporary story lines. Pacing and character development are excellent, and while some connections and events are foreshadowed, he never gives too much away, maintaining a sense of mystery until the very end. Very well done! I'll definitely watch for more from this author. 4-1/2 stars.

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This was my first ARC and I was so excited to dive in. I had never heard of this author, but the premise behind this book was so intriguing. It's hard to describe the tone because it wasn't deeply suspenseful enough to be categorized as a thriller though it was mysterious. The writing is honestly beautiful- I saved over a dozen quotes and passages that resonated with me. In the end, it all comes together in a slow 'pieces of a puzzle connecting to a bigger picture' kind of way.

The story is about friendship and a mother's love and the deep protection humans share for one another. For me, the plot was 4 stars, but the writing was 5 stars. Very curious to read future books by this author!

4.5/5 stars

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A woman receives a mysterious assignment and must follow clues through the history of a family as she struggles with her own relationship issues and the death of her mother. As the woman spends more time doing her research, she must decide what she’s going to do about a pressing dilemma of her own. Author Nathan Gower starts with a strong plot that loses some of its grip with a predictable outcome in his debut novel The Act of Disappearing.

Julia White feels like the biggest cliché in the world: she’s a writer living in New York and working as a bartender. At least she can say she’s been published, not that her publishing “accomplishment” is much to write home about. And even if she did write home, there’s no one there to hear about it anymore. Her mother, a brilliant but troubled art curator and professor, took her own life, leaving Julia with no family.

After channeling all of her feelings into a published memoir about her mother’s life and death, Julia thought her world would change. But her book fell like a drop in the ocean, and Julia isn’t any closer to her dreams coming true than she was before. Worse, she invited an ex to her book launch party, ended up hooking up with him, and now he’s ghosting her. They have a long, complicated history, one that Julia thought they’d finally start straightening out after the one-night stand, but Ryan has since disappeared.

When an elderly gentleman comes into the bar and asks her to sign a copy of her book for him, at first Julia thinks he’s some creepy guy with a weird fetish for much younger women. Then she discovers he’s the celebrated photographer, Jonathan Aster. Jonathan has come specifically to meet Julia; more than that, he wants to hire her to write a book for him based on a photograph from his private collection that no one has ever seen.

Wary at first, Julia warms up to Jonathan after she sees the picture. It’s from 1964 and is of a young woman jumping off a bridge with a baby in her arms. Jonathan asks Julia to do some investigating and find out who the woman is, why she jumped, and what happened to her family.

Her research takes her to Gray Station, Kentucky, a small Southern town where generations of the same family have lived and died. Even though she feels like an outsider at first, Julia convinces people to start talking to her about the photograph and the woman in it, Kathryn Fairchild. What she discovers is shocking and heartbreaking. More than that, Julia learns what drove Kathryn to jump that day and how her decision to do so affected the people of Gray Station for decades to come.

Author Nathan Gower shows a great deal of sensitivity in his first book, writing all of his female characters with authenticity. Gower captures the complexity and frustration of womanhood in various stages and timeframes with ease. His effortlessness with the inner workings of female characters shows a deft hand to be applauded in this first book.

He also tackles the difficult topic of mental health, allowing readers a glimpse into how those suffering from such issues were treated in the mid-1960s. Many readers will sympathize with Edith, Kathryn’s mother, whose postpartum depression leaves Kathryn longing for her mother and resenting her at the same time. Gower’s choices in how to move the story forward showcases care and thoughtfulness.

At times the plot itself falters, however, falling into more well-worn territory. The novel begins to follow a predictable path, allowing readers to guess long before the characters what will happen next. Gower does save one big surprise for the end having to do with Julia’s investigation, which will offer somewhat of a satisfying payoff for the long wait, but other story elements don’t feel as earned.

For a first novel, though, Gower is more or less in fine form. Those wanting to read a new voice that holds a fair amount of promise will want to check this out.

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Thank you Netgalley for letting me read this book.

This book kept my attention up to the very end. I love a good time lapse book. Trying to figure out what really happened was very intriguing. This book touches on a lot of hard to talk about topics. A lot happened to this family and some things were very sad to read about. Other things were very surprising to read. If you like a mystery time lapse than this is the book for you. There were a lot of twists about who the Fairchilds really were.

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In current day New York, a famous photographer, Jonathan Aster, requests a small-time writer, Julia, to write a book on one of his private collections photograph of a woman about to jump off a bridge holding a baby. He gives her no info about the woman in the photograph to start with, and Julia is entrusted to research on her own from scratch. In the chapters that describe the woman in the photograph, Kathryn Fairchild, the reader is taken to her gut-wrenching childhood and early adulthood in small-town Kentucky in the sixties. Why does Jonathan Aster choose Julia White out of all the New York writers to research Kathryn Fairchild? Nathan Gower effortlessly weaves in and out of both storylines that are surely related.

Thank you Ciara and Brianna at The Hive for the #gifted ARC! I really appreciate Ciara and Brianna for the special notes they provide with every bookmail and for their amazing influencer program! I’m super honored to have got it and I’ve enjoyed every book I’ve requested in this program! THANK YOU!♥️
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How did the author get away with calling this a debut novel? Just kidding, but truly, this book is a masterpiece and my favorite book I read in May. A crossover between mystery and historical fiction, The Act Of Disappearing explores so many heavy themes that existed in the 1960s as well as to this day on the repercussions of simply trying to be yourself as a woman or as a gay person. Topics on post partum depression and mental health are also intrinsically covered and I must tell you, the story is quite depressing but also so worth it especially when all the characters who suffered get their redemption in the end. This book makes an excellent pick for Pride Month as well! Highly recommend audio!

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This was one of my favorite reads for the year 2024 and I have been shouting it’s praise to all of my book loving friends. This book was fast paced, kept you on your toes the entire time up until the very last page. We get dual POV, dual TIMELINES and I can say that I love both of those things mixed together.

This book starts off with simply a photograph but not just any photo, a photo of a woman jumping off of a bridge with a baby and the person in possession of this photograph never told anybody about it. This man wants her to look into it and then write a book about it. We dive into secrets, flaws & trauma, mystery and thrilling moments.

This book had my eyes watering and my heart pounding in my chest, I felt this book in my soul, I heard the authors words. Like I said, a 5 star favorite 2024 book for me. . .one that I wish that I could read again for the first time. Please place this book on your TBR.

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The Act of Disappearing is a poignant story of discovery that highlights the strength of women through multiple generations and generational biases. Told from multiple points of view, in dual timelines, we dive deep into the lives of struggling author Julia White in the present, and the Fairchild family in the past. The characters feel like real people with real-world struggles and the plotting is exquisite with secrets both good and bad gradually unravelled. This is one of my favorite books of 2024.

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There’s a lot of dark topics connected to the tragedy that happens in this book. I had problems connecting with any of the story at the beginning but it improved as it progressed. The dual timeline was a bit confusing at times but I’m guessing it will help when the final edits and formatting are done. I did enjoy reading both periods but found overall that the story moved too slowly.
I look forward to seeing what this author writes next!

Thanks for the opportunity to read this!

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I read this book twice, back-to-back and even with the knowledge of what happens and what the characters go through - the tears just flowed. It’s a deeply moving, emotive, and sometimes infuriating story. It’s powerfully brilliant in its telling and so touching.

Told in dual timeline and alternating between the present and the past (1947-1964) this story starts out in a bar in Brooklyn where we meet our MC Julia White. She’s recently written a book, but it’s not doing well so she bartends to pay bills. One evening at the bar she hears hushed whispers that the famous photographer Jonathon Astor is sitting in the corner. It’s dark and she can’t tell. Some patrons want Julia to ask if it’s really who they think it is, so she goes over to him. Julia ends up talking to the man who is the famous photographer. What is he doing there?? She soon realizes John is at the bar to talk to her. He has her book, he’s read it, and shocks her by offering her a job. He shows her an old photograph of a woman jumping off a bridge-a photograph he took in the 60s. He needs her to investigate the photo, find out what happened, and write the story. Julia knows nothing and John won’t divulge what he knows. He puts her on retainer to write the story and says she is the only one that can do it. Julia is intrigued and eventually takes the job not realizing how closely involved she’ll become.

Please check trigger warnings on this as it’s a very heavy read. It’s heartbreaking and infuriating in parts, but also the ending- my goodness my heart was so torn and filled with so many “if only’s”. It’s triumphant even if there are pieces of incredible sorrow laced throughout. A powerful and emotional book! This story has layers upon layers of secrets and mysteries and it gets more intense with each chapter. I completely recommend. Five stars!!

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Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this enchanting eARC.

The Act of Disappearing by Nathan Gower is a poignant exploration of the intricate tapestry of human emotions, interwoven with a compelling mystery that transcends time.

Gower’s debut novel is a masterful blend of historical fiction and psychological depth, presenting a narrative that is haunting and beautiful.

Set against the backdrop of present-day Brooklyn and the shifting landscapes of Kentucky in the 1960s, the story follows Julia White, a struggling writer grappling with the aftermath of personal loss and a stalled literary career. Her encounter with Johnathan Aster, a renowned photographer, catapults her into an investigation of a chilling photograph depicting a woman’s tragic fall from a train bridge, clutching a baby.

As Julia delves into the enigma of the Fairchilds of Gray Station, she uncovers layers of secrets that challenge her understanding of family, mental health, and the very nature of truth. The narrative alternates between Julia’s present-day quest and the past tribulations of the Fairchild family, painting a vivid picture of the societal attitudes towards mental illness and the indelible impact it has on the afflicted and their loved ones.

Gower’s writing is evocative and sensitive, handling the subject matter with a deft touch that respects the complexity of his characters’ experiences.

This novel is a testament to the enduring strength of maternal bonds and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

The dual timelines are skillfully crafted, with each thread enhancing the other, creating a rich tapestry that captures the reader’s imagination. The mystery at the heart of the novel is meticulously unraveled, revealing a story that is both shocking and deeply moving.

The Act of Disappearing is a story of discovery, devotion, and the unseen battles fought in silence.

The act of disappearing occurs not just physically within this story, but also within the recesses of the mind.

Nathan Gower has crafted a narrative that is both a mirror to the past and a window into the soul, making this book a must-read for those who seek a story with depth, compassion, and a touch of mystery.

This novel is a spectacular story which will break your heart and then return to mend it anew.

An EASY ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ from this grateful and humble reader.

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Thank you To Netgalley for providing me with an ARC of this story.
SPOILERS TO FOLLOW

I want to say that I officially DNF'd at 23% of this book but I wanted to see if my theories were correct so I skimmed a majority of the book after I decided I didn't want to completely finish reading it. I was right about two things at least and surprised by one of the plot twists in the end. Overall I think this is a very interesting story it just didn't capture MY attention. I liked Julia and enjoyed her voice in the story but I was HIGHLY annoyed my Jonathan Aster. I hated how he was sending Julia around on this hunt and being so vague about everything. She was clearly not in the right mindset during certain parts of the story so I hope that improved later (it's hard to tell when you're skimming).

The two different timelines were VERY confusing at times which is also what put me off on the story. It wasn't so much Julia's timeline that confused me but the past years with the Fairchilds, Abbot's, etc. There was no 1 POV for that past timeline so it was very confusing at times because I couldn't tell who was speaking, Norman or Edith or someone else entirely. As I was skimming I also noticed how Kathyrn herself also had a POV as well as someone named Margret and I didn't like how there were so many different people lending their voices in the past timeline parts of the story and why it wasn't labeled with who was speaking.

I think if I kept reading I might have liked it more but as it was here, I didn't.

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Many thanks to NetGalley, Harlequin Trade Publishing MIRA Books for gifting me a digital ARC of this beautiful debut by Nathan Gower. All opinions expressed in this review are my own - 5 stars!

Julie White is having a hard time. Her first book didn't sell well, she's working at a bar but not making ends meet while faced with her mother's medical bills. Then there's Ryan - her ex-boyfriend who's ghosting her after a one-night stand. Then an opportunity comes knocking - Johnathan Aster, famous photographer, wants to meet with her about a story. He shows her a never-before-seen photo of a woman falling from a train bridge with a baby in her arms. Julie is intrigued and heads to Kentucky to research.

This book is incredible. Alternating between present day in Brooklyn and in Kentucky in the 1960s, we are privy to both what Julia is going through as well as the past events. I don't want to give anything away, because this book unfolds in such a magical way. The writing is beautiful, haunting, and will make you feel the characters' yearnings, desperations, fears. It's a small town story, where growing up with everyone talking about your family is impossible to escape. It's finding the people that make you feel safe and loved. It's a story of motherhood, especially the bonds between mothers and daughters. The fact that these emotions are perfectly portrayed by a man is an accomplishment in itself! It will transport you to the past and feel hopeful for the future. Have I gushed enough to make you go read this book? Can't wait to see what's next from this author - bravo on a fabulous debut!

Alternating between present-day Brooklyn and Kentucky as it enters the 1960s, the story unfolds as Julia races to find Who was the woman in the photograph? Why was she on the bridge? And what happened to the baby? Each detail is more propulsive than the last as Julia unravels the mystery surrounding the Fairchilds of Gray Station and discovers a story more staggering than anything she could have imagined.

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What an awesome book!! Thank you NetGalley, Harlequin Trade Publishing, Mira for this outstanding ARC in exchange for my honest review. With a photograph depicting a woman holding a baby while jumping off a railway bridge, photographer Johnathan Aster has no idea what he has captured. He contacts Julia White, a writer, to find out the story behind the photo. She is down on her luck after her first novel and accepts the challenge. When she enters a small town of Kentucky, she meets up with the people who know the story behind the photo. While she researches, she discovers the sadness of the family living with mental illness. She uncovers boundaries where the lines are blurred with a mother's tough love.
In the 1960's, when the photo was taken, the town acted on secrets and misconceptions using it as a weapon to release on the Fairchild family. Kathryn, the child of Edith Fairchild, is the main character the story is about. She has dealt with her mother's mental health and hospitalization her whole life. The family responds with a touching and unforgettable sadness of living in regards to the cards they have been dealt with. Their entitlement to belief and being understood is left under the table to defend the town's antics of bullying and gossip.
What a touching story, as Julia does the best she can with so much to learn and a lot of people to interact with that know the family. I enjoyed this so much and did not want it to end. It is sad and will leave you emotionally spent with regards to this family and Julia dealing with her own demons.

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Thoughts: Described as “hauntingly beautiful” this historical mystery did not disappoint. The story follows Julia, a writer in modern day Brooklyn, alternating with teenager, Kathryn, in small town Kentucky in the 1960s. I couldn’t help but be invested in both women’s stories as the mystery unfolded. I thought the pacing was excellent - I never wanted to put it down! The way the author alternated timelines and tied them together was excellent. This one explored some deep themes: mental health, the isolation of motherhood, adoption, assault - so definitely check the TWs. If you’re a fan of historical mysteries, thrillers, or stories of heartbreak and healing, I highly recommend!

Read this if you like:
📷 historical mysteries
📷 dual pov/timelines
📷 short chapters
📷 mental health rep
📷 found family

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A troubled teen jumps to her death while clinging to her Infant. The act is caught on camera as well as witnessed by many residents in the small rural Kentucky town in 1960. Most believe the girl is insane, as was her mother. Their bodies were never found. This mystery is the bases of the novel.
There is a lot of dark circumstances connected to this tragedy. Mental illness and rape are part of the story. I found the beginning a bit difficult when trying to connect with the characters, but the story improved as I read on. Dual time lines are also part of the book. I was much more invested in the young teens story than in the more recent time line. This is a first time novel for this author, Nathan Gower, and I think he shows a lot of potential in his future novels.

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Thank you NetGalley for the ARC! The Act of Disappearing by Nathan Gower is a mystery novel about a young girl whose life went wrong one fateful night. Trying to piece together that mistake takes her down a one way road that she can never come back from. Though I had figured out most of it by the end, I was surprised by a few of the twists. Overall, a good story but found it moved a little too slow for me.

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Many thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Trade Publishing for the free e-ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Julia, a floundering young woman who is trying to find her way, is tasked with investigating the story behind a photograph of a woman jumping from a bridge with a baby bundled in her arms. Who is the woman jumping from the bridge and why did she jump? As Julia sets out to answer these questions about the photo, she also confronts the questions and struggles of her own life.

This is a well written story told in alternating timelines of the past and present, Kentucky and Brooklyn. The author expertly weaves the story and makes it a very enjoyable read bot both literary and mystery lovers.

Highly recommend!!!

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Thanks to NetGalley for the eARC of this novel. I am of two minds about it. As a thriller, the title gave it away and there is not much suspense til the conclusion. The bad and good guys are kind of stock and the reader knows what tragedy will befall the poor girl at the center of the story. The mystery at the center of the more recent timeline is not much of a mystery either. On the other hand, this story of an utterly alone young woman in a small Kentucky town whom no one sees at all is heartbreaking. She tried to listen to herself and follow her heart and do all the right things, but there was no place for that. She ended up with one last act of selflessness that was the only way for her to show love in the world which had flung her aside. I wish the book had focused completely on her without the dual timelines. Her interior life would have made the story richer and more poignant.

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