Sarah Coolidge at The Quarterly Conversation:
Cristina Rivera Garza’s The Iliac Crest is a novel riddled with holes, disappearances that have the effect of warping and obscuring the world its reader inhabits. If this book were to have a single guiding principle, it might be these words: “Disappearance is contagious. Everyone knows this.” The narrator’s confidence in this fact is a bit alarming, and may come as news to the reader. Is disappearance a physical illness and this book some kind of existential science fiction treatise? Well, yes and no.
It’s hard to assert definitively just what this book is, although what is clear is that, in Rivera Garza’s world, disappearances are not unconnected—they propagate through a chain reaction, through physical contact, as the narrator goes on to explain almost scientifically, as if we were dealing with an outbreak of the flu. In fact, disappearance in this book is often referred to in medical terms, as an “epidemic,” or else in political terms, as a “conspiracy.” Either way, the fact is that these disappearances are all connected, whether by microscopic bacteria, by the secret crimes committed by a police state, or by some other insidious means.
But what, exactly, does it mean to disappear in Cristina Rivera Garza’s novel? Disappearances occur in multiple forms, both as seemingly passive actions—a memory or piece of information the narrator has forgotten or failed to mention; a made-up language that has not been deciphered for us—and active ones—the deliberate silencing of women with morphine; mysterious cover-ups; a stolen manuscript; and of course death.