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The Art of Vanishing: A Memoir of Wanderlust

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  421 ratings  ·  68 reviews
A young woman chafing at the confines of marriage confronts the high cost of craving freedom and adventure

At 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
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published February 6th 2018 by Viking
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3.44  · 
Rating details
 ·  421 ratings  ·  68 reviews

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Cristine Mermaid
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This cover and title appealed to me when I was putting new releases out so I read the blurb and I felt great hope that this was going to be a book that I would relate to. The reviews/rating vary wildly and now that I've read it, I understand why. Either, you feel this way, you 'get' the restlessness, the longing for something more, the feeling of suffocating from the typical American life or you don't. I get it. I can relate to her feelings of growing up and seeing society having one day after a ...more
Dana Blazsek
Feb 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018-arcs
3.5 stars-- Giving this book a rating took me 24 hours after finishing it to do.

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 w
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jan 25, 2018 marked it as did-not-finish
Definitely a case of it's me, not you, just not connecting with it, decided to move on.
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
Read the Wikipedia page on Barbara Follett instead of this bloated memoir. It's fine for the first several chapters, but descends into tedium when Smith starts wanting an open marriage. The author is so annoying, whinging about problems she literally created herself, I was rooting for her husband to walk out.

The only intriguing aspect is when the author searches extensively for a figure in Follett's life but comes up empty-handed, then turns it over to a librarian and receives the precise detail
Laura Smith became rather obsessed with the life of Barbara Follet, a young woman who walked away from her family in 1939 and was never heard from again. Barbara had published a novel at age 11 and become a sailor at 15. All through THE ART OF VANISHING, Laura correlates their 2 lives as Linda begins to question restraints her marriage seems to impose. I enjoyed reading this book which I received for an honest opinion. I'd rate THE ART OF VANISHING 3.5.
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
I had really high hopes for this book, but it never seemed to really come together for me. I will say that Barbara Newhall Follett's story was fascinating and well-written, as was the author's investigation into what happened to her. The author's own memoir, however, threaded throughout this investigation felt forced into Barbara's narrative. It read like two books tangled together.
Sep 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book does not live up to its title. The story of Barbara Follett is interesting; the author’s journey as a writer and a wife in an open marriage is less so.
Jul 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have such mixed feelings about this book. I found the story of Barbara Newell Follett fascinating. The author’s description of her research into Follett’s life was also great.

What didn’t quite work for me was the author’s attempt to parallel her relationship issues with Follett’s life. The attempted connections seemed forced.

All in all, I’m glad I read this book because it introduced me to Follett and her works.

3.5 stars
Bree Hill
(Listened to this on audio from the library) been making my way through it the past couple of days.
This is one of those books I went into expecting to love. I love memoirs by women and adding a woman who lives with wanderlust is the icing on the cake for me! I love travel memoirs. It also, although nonfiction, has one of my favorite tropes..women separated by time and one is searching for the other in some way or their lives are parallel in some way. This one missed the mark for me though. The
Karen Ng
Jul 21, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fantasy, memoir
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I liked this more than I thought I would. I rarely read contemporary memoirs, which isn't surprising given my interest in history. But Smith set her own story of love and marriage against that of Barbara Follett, a celebrated child author who disappeared as a young woman in 1939. Smith writes very well about Follett's life and of her attempts to figure out what happened to her. Those parts were fascinating.
Aug 12, 2018 rated it liked it
I so wanted to like this book A LOT. I wanted this book to be the glimpse into my own mind. However, I felt like the author herself did not feel like HER experiences warranted a book. I was disappointed to be constantly pulled away into a parallel story about Barbara. I wanted to know about Laura. The little that I did get I enjoyed - I wanted more.
Jun 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
Reads like a first book yes, but a very skillful examination nonetheless of marriage, relationships and wanting to be your own person while with someone else. I very much look forward to what Laura Smith does next. This writer has a very bright future ahead of her.
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club, memoir
2.5, if I could. Will write a review after our book club meeting.
Maryka Biaggio
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Laura Smith has written a captivating memoir, one that interweaves the story of her new marriage with that of child genius Barbara Follett, who mysteriously vanished at age 25 after the breakup of her marriage. In her retelling Smith reflects on the nature of commitment, the desire for independence, and the temptations of wanderlust. An effective and unusual memoir!
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
This is a story of a young woman who searches for a former child prodigy who disappears in the late 1930's without a trace. Barbara Follett was a published writer by age 9 and went on numerous adventures on both land and sea. She was an Amelia Earhart type of modern woman who did not wish to be confined to a woman's role of wife and mother. Yet, she met a man she ended up marrying only to be shattered when he decided to leave their marriage.

The author, investigating for her post-graduate work,
Fran Fisher
Mar 03, 2018 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
"How could one family, one life lived in one place ever satisfy?"

A suspenseful book about two women's wanderlust, told over a century. A mystery is unfolding that drags the reader through the pages, both in the past--centered on Barbara Follett a child prodigy who vanishes from a marriage at 25--and in the present through Laura's memoirs about writing this book in her own marriage around the same age. It is a very quick read.

Fundamentally, this is a book about desire to live more than one life.
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
I LOVED where this book was going for the first half. Barbara Follett's life is fascinating. But, this is a memoir, not a biography. And so, it must reflect back to Laura Smith. The problem is that Follett is much more interesting than Smith. It was a real page-turner, but I found myself skimming Laura Smith's memoir parts to get back to the Follett mystery, and found the ending (understandably) unsatisfying. (view spoiler) ...more
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved the style and content of this book and especially the structure: alternating chapters of Barbara and the author's very personal experiences.

After a long discussion of Barbara, Chapter Seven begins: "We flew to Phuket..." Wait! What? Phuket has an airport!!? I was hooked by this switch since when I was in Phuket many years ago and stayed out at Bateau Ferrengi ("Beach/Boat of the Strangers") and everything was 60 cents: a meal, a bed even a pipe of opium and there certainly wasn't an airp
Devon H
Jan 23, 2018 rated it liked it
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
Apr 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-books
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Everything about this book spoke to me: wanderlust, disappearing restless women, the author's first name, the perfect-shade-of-blue jacket... I had to read this book!

In the end, it left me a tad disappointed. Overall, I liked it, but feel the author pushed her own story into Barbara's much more fascinating story where it didn't belong. There really is no comparison between Barbara and Laura other than they both were restless at times. But they were restless about way different things! Barbara wa
Donna Hines
Jul 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Kindness to others is often a rewarding experience to ourselves."
Laura Smith needed a new lease on life as she began to feel trapped in her marriage and wished to be set free.
Restlessness was a real downer until she became wrapped up in a similar story written by Newhall Follett.
Newhall led a very interesting life having published her first novel at only eleven. Laura looked up to her for inspiration and channeled her energy.
In leaving we uncover our truths. In breaking the chains we uncover ou
Sep 27, 2018 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this book, but it doesn’t really match with the title. I’d give the first 1/3 of this book 4 stars, but the rest petered out for me.

I like how Smith alternates chapters between her own story and the life of Barbara Follett. I really enjoy the exploration of wanting a life that is less than conventional. I also got a few quotes that really hit home and I wrote them down for future consideration.

But the mystery of Follett’s disappearance loses its pull as the book moves along. Smi
Sep 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book could not have come to me at a better time. After recently packing my bags, selling what I couldn’t carry, and moving to the other side of the planet with my partner, I found myself wondering: is this adventure or escapism? Are we freeing ourselves or tying ourselves to each other? Are we happy?

Laura Smith weaves the enigmatic story of Barbara Follett with her own beautifully honest and vulnerable take on adventure, relationships, and “settling down”. It’s more personal than your stand
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The author wraps her own story about her longing for freedom with a real-life story of Barbara a woman who vanishes without a trace in the 1930s. The author describes living in a world where she felt she should get married, buy a house, have kids and be satisfied. She decided to get married but not follow the "rules" after that. Barbara is a child-prodigy who goes on adventures and disappears after a few years of marriage. Everyone in her life wonders whether she was dead or whether she simply d ...more
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-books
I really loved the search for Barbara. It was interesting, kept me wanting to know more, and it was well-written. But the rest of the story, the author's personal story and her relationship, were not as compelling. The whole open rleationship thing didn't interest me, and although I have no objection to whatever people want to do in their relationships, I felt that she spent too long talking about it and creating a whole drama about it. It didn't feel natural, a lot of it was just going back and ...more
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“I began writing about a woman who disappears. Not Barbara, but a fictional woman. She was a botanist who had vanished, perhaps deliberately, in the Burmese jungle in search of a rare, psychedelic mushroom. I wrote about her because, of course, I wanted to disappear. Often those who write about women who have vanished are men with an impulse to eviscerate women, or women with an impulse to eviscerate themselves. I was interested in a different kind of vanishing: the kind where you disentangle yourself from your life and start fresh. People would miss you. You could miss them. You could live at a peaceful distance, loving them in a way that is simpler than the way you love someone you have to deal with in everyday life. You hadn't abandoned them. You were just gone. Mysterious rather than rejecting. Vanishing was a way to reclaim your life.” 2 likes
“As she was putting the finishing touches on The House Without Windows, she wrote of her yearning for a wilder life: “I want as long as possible in that green, fairylike, woodsy, animal-filled, watery, luxuriant, butterfly-painted, moth-dotted, dragonfly-blotched, bird-filled, salamandrous, mossy, ferny, sunshiny, moonshiny, long-dayful, short-nightful land, on that fishy, froggy, tadpoly, shelly, lizard-filled lake—[oh,] no end of the lovely things to say about that place, and I am mad to get there.” Barbara is the girl inside the house, rattling at her cage, demanding to be set free. Go outside, she is saying. Embrace the world in all its frightening, joyful, sun-filled complexity.” 1 likes
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