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Discussion Guide

Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance: A Novel

By Alison Espach

From Alison Espach, author of the New York Times Editor’s Choice novel The Adults, comes a dazzlingly unconventional love story for readers of Ask Again, Yes and Tell the Wolves I’m Home.


For much of her life, Sally Holt has been mystified by the things her older sister, Kathy, seems to have been born knowing. Kathy has answers for all of Sally’s questions about life, about love, and about Billy Barnes, a rising senior and local basketball star who mans the concession stand at the town pool. The girls have been fascinated by Billy ever since he jumped off the roof in elementary school, but Billy has never shown much interest in them until the summer before Sally begins eighth grade. By then, their mutual infatuation with Billy is one of the few things the increasingly different sisters have in common. Sally spends much of that summer at the pool, watching in confusion and excitement as her sister falls deeper in love with Billy—until a tragedy leaves Sally’s life forever intertwined with his.


Opening in the early nineties and charting almost two decades of shared history and missed connections, Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance is both a breathtaking love story about two broken people who are unexplainably, inconveniently drawn to each other and a wryly astute coming-of-age tale brimming with unexpected moments of joy.

This discussion guide and recommended reading was shared and sponsored in partnership with Henry Holt.

Discussion Questions

Use these discussion questions to guide your next book club meeting.

Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance is both a sister story and a love story and the story of a family rebuilding itself. How did the different threads enhance each other and which of them did you find the most compelling or moving?

How does the story benefit from being told from Sally's perspective, the younger of the two siblings? What did you make of Sally’s direct address to her sister throughout the book?

How does Sally and Kathy's relationship change over the years, before Kathy's death? How does Sally and Kathy’s relationship change after Kathy’s death?

“In Alison Espach’s hands, a teenage girl on the cusp of understanding, a dazzling older sister, and a small Connecticut town become a beautifully described world filled with characters I wanted to meet, characters I still think about. Their trials and tribulations and adolescent longing and awkwardness; their love for each other—it all felt amazingly real. Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance is the rare kind of book that made me both laugh and cry. It is hilarious and moving and deeply felt, and I was sad when it ended.”

—Anton DiSclafani, author of The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls


“Espach is an immensely talented writer, and her prose unfolds with a devastating lightness of touch. This novel is deeply moving, always excellent, and often unexpectedly funny.”

—Emily St. John Mandel, New York Times bestselling author of The Glass Hotel


“Oh how I loved this novel! Alison Espach masterfully examines the effects of devastating loss with enormous wit, charm, and intelligence. This is truly a novel like no other.”

—Joanna Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year


“This tragicomic bildungsroman in the shadow of loss will invade your heart and hold on tight.”



Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance is heartbreaking and funny, often in the same sentence--a deeply felt, finely wrought, and highly satisfying novel. Alison Espach has created a family whose every sorrow, joy, and idiosyncrasy is utterly, vibrantly real.”

—Claire Lombardo, New York Times bestselling author of The Most Fun We Ever Had