A young woman chafing at the confines of marriage confronts the high cost of craving freedom and adventure
At 25, as her wedding date approached, Laura Smith began to feel trapped. Not by her fiancé, 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.
"Skillful and sensitive." (The New York Times Book Review)
“Told with real insight and remarkable honesty . . . [The Art of Vanishing] interweaves biographical portraiture that is urgently personal and memoir that is deepened by historical exploration. Smith pushes literary boundaries.” (The Atlantic)
“On the brink of her impending nuptials, Laura Smith finds herself enthralled by the disappearance of Barbara Newhall Follett, a trailblazing author and adventurer who left behind an unhappy marriage and vanished without a trace in 1939. Grappling with what the future will hold for her, the nature of marriage, and a yearning for some ephemeral idea of freedom, this cleverly-written memoir follows Smith as her restless musings twine with Follett's trail, two kindred spirits finding one another across the span of time.” (Harper’s Bazaar)