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The Art of Vanishing: A Memoir of Wanderlust Hardcover – February 6, 2018
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‟The Art of Vanishing is captivating and ingenious—a biography, a memoir of a marriage, and an exploration of a few timelessly vexing questions: Is it possible to forge a life that combines adventure and stability? What role does fantasy play in our day-to-day? Where is the balance between autonomy and intimacy? Laura Smith is a beautiful writer, a sharp critic, and a great storyteller. Once I started reading this book I could not put it down.ˮ
—Kate Bolick, author of Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own
"A haunting and elegant meditation on restlessness, a fascinating literary mystery, and a bold exploration of marriage and wanderlust, this highly original and unsettling book will remain with you long after you finish it.ˮ —Katie Roiphe, author of Uncommon Arrangements
"This is a book that comes from the most urgent and pure place: an obsession with an illusive person who you are sure will solve all the mysteries in your own life. Laura follows the trail to produce a rare book that's both intimate and broad, suspenseful and quiet in all the best ways."
--Hanna Rosin, host of Invisibilia and author of The End of Men
"Skillful and sensitive." – The New York Times Book Review
“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
"A captivating read for everyone who has ever wondered what would happen if you could simply start over." --HelloGiggles
"Seductive . . . a riviting journey mapping the route of two restless women and their search for fulfillment." --Publisher's Weekly
"A bravely introspective tale of wanderlust and lustful wandering." --Kirkus
About the Author
Laura Smith's writing has appeared in The New York Times, Slate, and Mother Jones. She worked on The Art of Vanishing while on a fellowship at the Banff Arts Centre. She lives in Oakland, California.
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The evolution of Laura's relationship is well balanced with the magic and mystery surrounding Barbara's life and eventual dissapearance. As a woman in my late 20s, I was captivated by Laura and Barbara's battles for adventure verses stability. It's a relatable feeling and she captured how daily life can both wear you down and protect you.
Laura is a true storyteller and I look forward to seeing what she creates next.
It's the same problem I had with the biography of Edouard Manet's model Victorine Meurent, in Alias Olympia: A Woman's Search for Manet's Notorious Model and Her Own Desire. Both books read like a successful pitch to a publisher, or a project for a master's degree: I'll investigate this historical mystery and bring the reader along with me as I solve it.
But neither book can unlock the secrets of the past. Desire alone does not assure a successful conclusion, and the projects at which others had failed turned out to be unsolvable for these authors as well. Meanwhile, the author's detailed, self-absorbed narrative of the pull between two men became rather tedious. Yes, we want everything; no, we don't want to hurt anyone. The sense that she has a destiny to uncover (but with which man?) rather than just make the decision to stay or go, drags out the drama.
Laura Smith is restless. She is young and married, yet feels trapped. While she is grappling with this, she works on researching Barbara Follett who disappeared at a young age. As she tells the story of Follett, Laura tells her story. One that is full of adventure in travels, work, and even her marriage.
While I enjoyed both aspects of the story, I just did not feel that they gelled together too much. Though there were a couple similarities between Barbara and Laura, not enough that their stories should be told in parallel story lines