In Katy Yocom’s debut novel Three Ways to Disappear, humans—and tigers—strive to connect and struggle to survive in a conflicted natural world
In Katy Yocom’s debut novel, Three Ways to Disappear, two families—one human, one tiger—follow parallel journeys in which the powerful drives to connect, love, and raise the next generation play out against the fact of loss and the painful necessity of letting go. Yocom, who is an associate director of Spalding University’s School of Creative and Professional Writing, offers a meditation on connectedness and coexistence among animals and humans, the fragility of relationships and life itself, and the healing power of love.
Leaving behind a nomadic and dangerous career as a journalist, Sarah DeVaughan returns to India, the country of her childhood and a place of unspeakable family tragedy, to help preserve the endangered Bengal tigers—a task made complicated by complex local politics and a forbidden love. Meanwhile, at home in Kentucky, her sister, Quinn, copes with their mother’s refusal to talk about the past, her son’s life-threatening illness, and her own increasingly troubled marriage. When Sarah asks Quinn to join her in India, Quinn realises that the only way to overcome the past is to return to it, and it is in this place of stunning natural beauty and hidden danger that the sisters can finally understand the ways in which their family has disappeared—from their shared history, from one another—and recognise that they may need to risk everything to find themselves again.
With dramatic urgency, a powerful sense of place, and a beautifully rendered cast of characters revealing a deep understanding of human nature in all its flawed glory, Three Ways to Disappear is an unforgettable novel about saving all that is precious, from endangered species to the indelible bonds among family.
“As a child, I was fascinated with big cats of all types. I thought I outgrew that fascination, but when a tigress at the Louisville Zoo gave birth to a litter of cubs, I instantly fell in love, visited frequently, and watched them grow up,” Yocom says of her inspiration for the novel. “I knew that in the wild, tigers face long odds, and the complexity of the human-tiger relationship captured my imagination. I’ve always been drawn to stories confronting the big questions: life, death, how we carry on in the face of loss, what it means to be truly connected to someone, and what it takes to heal broken relationships.”
In researching the novel, Yocom traveled to India to visit tiger reserves, funded by a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation.
The book, published by Ashland Creek Press, will release in July, and will be available on Amazon.
Three Ways to Disappear won the Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature and was a finalist for the Dzanc Books Disquiet Open Borders Book Prize and the UNO Press Publishing Lab Prize.
In 2019, Yocom received the Al Smith Fellowship for artistic excellence from the Kentucky Arts Council, the state’s highest honour for individual artists.