Happy Early Book Birthday to The Art of Vanishing!
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 overly 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.
I’m glad Smith reached the conclusion that she did, that she allowed herself to continue speculating and leaving some things unanswered. The conclusion was so wishy-washy, but at the same time definitively open, which I enjoyed.
I received a copy of this book via Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review.