The Art of Vanishing
A young woman chafing at the confines of marriage confronts the high cost of craving freedom and adventureAt twenty-five, as her wedding date approached, Laura Smith began to feel trapped. Not by her fiance, who shared her appetite for adventure, but by the unsettling idea that it was hard to be at once married and free.Laura wanted her life to be different. She wanted her marriage to be different. And she found in the strangely captivating story of another restless young woman determined to live without constraints both an enticement and a challenge. Barbara Newhall Follett was a free-spirited trailblazer who published her first novel at 11, enlisted as a deck hand on a boat bound for the south China seas at 15 and was one of the first women to hike the Appalachian trail. Then in December 1939, when she was not much older than Laura, she walked out of her apartment on a quiet tree-lined street in Brookline, leaving behind a fraying marriage, and vanished without a trace. Obsessed by her story, Laura set off to find out what had happened.The Art of Vanishing is a riveting mystery and a piercing exploration of marriage and convention that asks deep and uncomfortable questions: Why do we give up on our childhood dreams? Is marriage a golden noose? Must we find ourselves in the same row houses with Pottery Barn lamps telling our kids to behave? Searingly honest and written with a raw intensity, it will challenge you to rethink your most intimate decisions and may just upend your life.

The Art of Vanishing Details

TitleThe Art of Vanishing
Author
ReleaseFeb 6th, 2018
PublisherViking
ISBN-139780399563584
Rating
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Travel, Biography, Biography Memoir

The Art of Vanishing Review

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    January 1, 1970
    Definitely a case of it's me, not you, just not connecting with it, decided to move on.
  • Kirsty
    January 1, 1970
    The Art of Vanishing, which tells the parallel stories of a historic disappearance and the author's own experiences with love and travel, is utterly fascinating. Smith has woven together both histories incredibly well, and I could hardly put it down. The perfect book for a long flight.
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  • Lindsey
    January 1, 1970
    A beautiful, gripping, and provoking book. Smith skillfully interweaves the story of Barbara with her own; she had me always wondering what would happen next in each plot line, always wanting more. The prose is beautiful; you get the sense that each sentence was carefully constructed. The amount of research and work Smith put toward finding out what happened to Barbara and understanding her life is impressive. While I can understand how some readers might not want to come along on that journey, A beautiful, gripping, and provoking book. Smith skillfully interweaves the story of Barbara with her own; she had me always wondering what would happen next in each plot line, always wanting more. The prose is beautiful; you get the sense that each sentence was carefully constructed. The amount of research and work Smith put toward finding out what happened to Barbara and understanding her life is impressive. While I can understand how some readers might not want to come along on that journey, I loved how—especially later in the book—Smith talked about all her research. It made me feel as if I were right by her side every step of the way, trying to solve the mystery of what happened to Barbara. She brought that same immediacy to her own storyline. It was often gut-wrenching to be there in real time with her as she and P.J. navigated the choppy waters of an open relationship. But without that immediacy the book would have been much less powerful. It feels like she held nothing back—which undoubtedly made the book stronger.
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  • Devon H
    January 1, 1970
    Smith writes an intricately woven story of her own life and marriage juxtaposed with that of her research subject Barbara Newhall Follet. Although listed as a memoir, Smith combines Follet's biography in with her own. In large part, that has to do with Smith's obsession over Barbara, and how involved her own life became in that of Barbara's. The set up for this memoir unfolded a bit strangely, as it read as very heavy on the Follet biography side at the beginning, gradually shifting towards bein Smith writes an intricately woven story of her own life and marriage juxtaposed with that of her research subject Barbara Newhall Follet. Although listed as a memoir, Smith combines Follet's biography in with her own. In large part, that has to do with Smith's obsession over Barbara, and how involved her own life became in that of Barbara's. The set up for this memoir unfolded a bit strangely, as it read as very heavy on the Follet biography side at the beginning, gradually shifting towards being more so about Smith's own life by the end. I liked how she compared herself to Follet throughout the story, and found it fascinating when those around her compared and contrasted Smith's romantic life with Follet's as well. However, I wasn't keen on learning as much as I did about Barbara Follet. I can see that Smith was at times obsessed and generally fascinated with this missing person's story, constantly hunting for answers. It almost feels as though Follet was such a large part of Smith's life that of course she couldn't be left out, but did I need to know as much as I learned? Follet certainly lived an interesting life, but I wasn't invested in her as a reader, unfortunately. Smith's writing is eloquent, and the story flowed like the tide of a wave, pulling back and forth, one way and then another. This dramatic push and pull felt like a careful dance, and one that I think Smith ultimately succeeded in sharing effectively. 
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