Disappear Home tells the story of Shoshanna and her mother and sister. It’s 1970 and they have just escaped the Sweet Earth Farm where they have lived with their violent father and a bunch of other hippies for the past few years. They flee to San Francisco and meet up with a friend of theirs, Judy, and the four of them try to create a new life together in the nearby countryside.
I have a bit a fascination not only for the hippie movement of the late ‘60s but also for the aftermath in the early ‘70s, so this book pressed a lot of buttons for me. I loved the descriptions of when the family lived in Haight-Ashbury in the Summer of Love, but more than this I liked the way the author described how the hippie movement had changed by the early seventies, how there were still plenty of people who believed in the whole peace and love ethos, but that for many the whole scene had turned a bit skeevy with drug addicts and panhandlers where there used to be flower children.
The writing is simple enough to keep the plot flowing well but descriptive enough to give you a real sense of what it was like to live then, basically as an itinerant. Shoshanna and her sister Mara have never been to school, their mum never wants to stay long enough anywhere to put roots down, both from a dislike of authority and the government and a fear that their father will find them. I felt really sorry for Mara as all she wanted was some stability and to be like other kids.
The story is told from a distant third person POV and although Shoshanna is clearly supposed to be the main character, her sister, mother and Judy also take an equal portion of the spotlight. Although the POV meant I didn’t connect with Shoshanna as a character that much, it was interesting to see what life was like for the other characters as well.
Judy seemed like a really grounded, lovely person. Shoshanna’s mum seemed completely flaky in some of her beliefs - she refused to see a doctor about her cough, claiming that the body could heal itself and refused to let her children eat chocolate or ice-cream because junk food is apparently a right-wing conspiracy by The Man to try to kill minorities with diabetes and heart disease - but at the same time she was a fragile, damaged person with mental health issues, so she was still likeable.
Shoshanna’s dad, Adam, was a bit of a one-dimensional baddie, but it was interesting to see the full extent of his evilness to unfold as the story progressed, from someone who was violent to his family, to being a drug addict and dealer and murderer.
All in all I’d definitely recommend Disappear Home, and because the plot is quite gentle and gets wrapped up in a nice, neat Happily Ever After I’d recommend it for the lower end of the Young Adult age range.