Eleven twisting tales curated from nearly a decade of work, And Then We Vanish features five new stories and six previously published stories from acclaimed independent author D. H. Schleicher.
In these stories we encounter characters who are victims of their own poor decisions and of chance, like a young boy under the threat of a local kidnapping scare who starts to realize the truth about himself and his father one fateful Halloween, a woman in the midst of a midlife crisis whose dog keeps running away from her, a disgraced college professor who becomes entangled with his down-and-out neighbors outside of Atlantic City, and a lonely person who wanders Niagara Falls at night imagining their escape with a mysterious stranger.
These characters might be longing to disappear or left behind by those who already have, and their stories challenge us to connect with them while they navigate the waves of mystery, violence, and the absurd that filter into their everyday lives.
D. H. Schleicher’s new collection of literary and speculative fiction, WHEN WE COME BACK, was released in January of 2023. His preceding collection, AND THEN WE VANISH, explores characters longing to disappear or left behind by those who already have. His historical thriller, THEN CAME DARKNESS, plumbs the depths of greed, revenge, and family dysfunction during the Great Depression. He currently resides in the South Jersey suburbs of Philadelphia with his wife and son.
And Then We Vanish is a collection of stories that contain themes of authenticity, odd connections, wistfulness, and in one case, glorious catharsis. For example, in one story, a man only learns to appreciate his family after a tragedy. In another, someone ponders a breakup, a murder, and a rogue ballet slipper that might have a connection to said murder. In perhaps my favorite, a woman is mistakenly labeled as dead by a coworker who covets being the center of attention.
All of these stories are extremely well written, and the author does an excellent job communicating mood, emotion, and sense of place. A highly recommended read for fans of contemporary short stories.
I enjoyed this collection of short stories. My favourite was the first one - the way that Schleicher played with the concept of clowns from a little boy's perspective impressed me alot, even though it was a sad ending. The following stories were brilliant as well. A great collection.
This is an interesting book of shorts that explores different takes on ‘vanishing’. There’s variety here, for sure and I love that about short anthologies so I was right at home. The first and last stories were particularly gripping as a result of the strong narrative voice and engaging plots. The imagination of this author is awesome; I especially loved Shleicher’s unique take on Niagra Falls too!
It’s clear that Schleicher knows how to tell an awesome story. The tone and characters were developed and three dimensional and some narrators had an undercurrent of Stephen king about them but each story was different from the last.
It seemed to me that The author made a creative decision to leave some of the stories at a crucial point—as shorts do—but in one or two of the stories, I did feel like that cliff hanger ending was just a tad premature and I would like to have something more rounded that didn’t feel too abrupt.
That said, I will certainly be buying any future work from this author and I’m excited to see where they take their writing next.
This collection of short stories is nothing short of fantastic. I felt like each story was better than the last, until I lost track and stopped trying to compare and contrast, to quantify, and just gave in to the hypnotic melancholy of these beautifully crafted tales. As a father I found the stories most related to parenthood to be particularly powerful, and as a fan of thrillers, noir and action I also loved those that had that extra frisson of danger, but each and every story deserves a better, more considered appraisal than I can muster here and now. This is great. Read it. And, if you haven't already, also check out the novel by the same author - it's also fantastic.
And Then We Vanish is a collection of short stories that tell such comprehensive tales you wouldn’t think possible with as little words are written. All still while keeping you wanting to know what happens after the end! Schleicher strikes the perfect balance between giving a wonderful small snapshot while still building vivid worlds.
There is surely a story, or a few, that will resonate with everyone. Whether you like sad, or really sad, or outlandish tales, there will be a story that stays with you. For me, it was Somebody You Used to Know (The Killers reference also helped my favorable review) that stays in my mind.
It’s clear Schleicher is a talented creative and likes his stories to verge on fantasy/sci-fi with just enough eerie realism to ground the reader. Go and find out which short story is your favorite!
D. H. Schleicher’s short story collection, 'And Then We Vanish', is an intriguing and rich tapestry of fiction. It begins with a story of a young boy who is just beginning to understand himself, his sexuality, his family and the male influences in his life while trying not to get snatched up by the Cowboy, a notorious local kidnapper, in “The Pumpkin Thief.”
There is a waning romance intermingled with murder and mystery in “The Ballerina In Battery Park,” a story which also paints a convincing image of a particular period in New York City. The well placed details in this story are what make it so intriguing and what kept me reading. The little yellow finch, that avian ballerina, was my favorite character in the story.
From there you are taken through an array of unique stories that will keep you wondering, and reading. The thoughtfully placed details in each story give them such depth and character that it feels like the writer lived the life of each character himself. Schleicher has written each story in such a captivating way that from the very beginning of each story I was compelled to push forward looking for answers.
This was certainly the case when I read “When Night Falls On Niagara.” When night falls on Niagara, a man follows Gloria. He follows her when she gets coffee and he follows her to her office. He sits on the same bench every night watching Gloria walk into her office building, her office light flicking on. She holds the weight of the greatest secret of Niagara Falls on her shoulders. If he could only work himself up to climb that fire escape and crawl into her office, he could convince her to relinquish herself from this secret that has bogged her down for so long, haunting her and filling her with longing. They could escape together. Leave Niagara for good. And in the morning, the whole world would know the truth about Niagara Falls.
The book ends with a transporting story based in 1948 Philadelphia. A young boy goes to visit his father for the summer and has to grow up much too fast and face his childhood fears much sooner than he ever imagined in “Night Of The Spider.” This was a truly amazing short story.
Overall, the collection of short stories were fun to read with original storytelling and quite good character development in each story.
I've reviewed another book by the author before and loved it, so when he offered me a copy of this short story collection for review, I was happy to oblige!
While most of the stories were originally published elsewhere, they all generally carry a theme of a person disappearing for a certain length of time. A lot of the endings are left ambiguous and it's not sure if the person died or simply got lost. In other cases, the disappearance is only temporary or the result of something not life-threatening.
A lot of the protagonists are unlikeable. A lot of the male characters are... iffy when it comes to women. In some cases they can be downright creepy. Thankfully, those don't make up the entirety of the protagonists and there are likeable ones as well.
The only downside, and this may be nitpicky on my part, is the repeated theme of social media. In every story where a social media is a factor, the character using it is always a woman that is shallow, obsessed with telling everyone ever facet of her life, or both. Unlike the main theme, which has nuance and variety, the social media theme feels stale and outdated. It's trying to say something pertinent about the state of internet culture, but it sounds like it's from an elderly relative that only got a Facebook profile because the family insisted on it. The stories are taken from over a decade of work, so it is possible these stories are actually from years ago. But they definitely haven't aged well.
Social media theme aside, the writing style is well done and evocative. While a lot of the protagonists aren't likeable, they're all interesting. If you're looking for a way to spend an evening dwelling on the horrors of how easy it is to lose touch with others, it's a great pick.
And Then We Vanish is a collection of eleven short stories featuring characters from all walks of life who are faced with one common event: they vanish, whether by choice or due to the actions of another.
I love when a book makes me think about life even after I’ve put it down. And Then We Vanish had this effect as I thought about how we are faced with stories of people vanishing each and every day. We read about them in magazines and hear the stories on the news. We often assume the worst. This person must have been kidnapped…this person was surely murdered. But what if that is not always the case? What if, sometimes, people just decide to disappear for whatever reason? Perhaps it’s to escape their bad deeds, or perhaps it’s just an opportunity to have a fresh start in life. Schleicher shined the light on these disappearances through his storytelling.
I found Schleicher’s writing to be outstanding, especially his descriptions. Given the limited space of the short story, he packed in a surprising amount of details. I appreciate that he often included multiple senses-the sights, the sounds, the smells. It was these details that helped the story come alive. When he referenced “bacon sizzling on the stove,” I knew exactly what I would smell and hear.
In his first collection of short stories, D.H. Schleicher’s And Then We Vanish gives us an intriguing assortment of 11 tales accumulated over a ten year period. Each story ends with a twist, many of which you will not see coming. In each tale, people's lives change, not always for the better. “When Night Falls on Niagara,” one of my favorites is both a whimsical and mysterious tale and will make you wonder what’s real and not real about one of America’s most famous landmarks. Another gem, “Upon the Un-fortunate News of My Death,” deals with modern-day social media. How spreading rumors and misinformation can so easily change lives. “Anthrax and Cherry Blossoms,” “Somebody You Use to Know,” and “Boko Harem’s Greatest Hits” are a few more of my top picks. Schleicher has a style that draws you in and makes you care about each of his characters.
Moving and thought-provoking collection with strong characters. I first found this collection after seeing it on a tweet. I totally enjoyed these gripping stories set on the east coast (Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey) filled with emotional conflicts especially those focusing on father-son relationships. If you read this book, please read to the end. My experience of short story collections is reading the first three and the last one but I had read every single one in this collection. The best story is the last, set in New Jersey in the 1950s about a boy who has had to leave his aunt to look after his dad. It left a lasting impression and I can remember all of it in detail still. These stories will stay with you long after you've read them.
This collection of short stories by D.H. Schleicher was a delight and a wonderful read. Especially for someone like me who has a million things going on at once! I could pick up my Kindle and read one or two short stories, then come back to it a day or two later w/ no problems. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I related to the stories by geography and characters. This may be the first book I have ever read for fun that mentions Alamance County, NC! Ha! If you are traveling at all this summer, you should pack this book as well for any leisure time or when you want to disconnect via a delightful story or two! Well done.
Excellent collection of short stories from this talented author. All the stories have their own pleasures to offer, with characters that feel finely crafted while remaining realistic in their actions and reactions to their situations. The stories all have their own individual pleasures to offer, with some even providing final twists that make them resonate more. Personal favorites include "Boko Haram's Greatest Hits" and "Somebody You Used To Know." Definitely check this collection out!
This is a wonderful collection of stories. Beautifully nuanced tales of unorthodox human interactions and the impact (both gentle and devastating) that these people have on each other. Each story is a little gem, and I was reminded of the work and style of the great Paul Auster. A terrific book.
This collection of short stories is about people who vanish from their world. It's an easy read. The stories all seem to start with the premise, what if I vanished from my life. What would happen and who would notice.
Enjoyed this more than I thought I would! I’m not a short story fan but I found this collection to be very engaging. I personally even have trouble with how many novels end, let alone how a short story concludes. Only one or two of these story’s left me unsatisfied at their conclusion.
3.5 Stars - A Short Story Collection Around Vanishing
For someone who does not care much for short story collections, I have read three in the past year courtesy of the #indiebookclub book of the month selection. I have to say I have enjoyed them with mixed results and this offering by D H Schleicher sits neatly in the middle of the other two.
I feel conflicted about this book. First and foremost, I enjoyed the writing style. The author conveys his tales in an easy way, nuanced and effortless, by which I mean the stories are all very engaging in the telling which flowed and carried me right along with it. Until they didn’t.
Forest Gump’s mother said it best ‘Life is a box of chocolates’ and that for me is the issue with this book. I was never sure what I was going to get, I just knew that whatever it was I liked it only then it was over, done, finished, time to move on to the next story.
It was like I’d ordered a lovely steak and had taken a few mouthfuls when the waiter suddenly pops up and clears the table and hands me the dessert menu. Sorry, those that read my reviews know I like a good food analogy! I have no excuses this time having eaten at the time of writing.
So what do I mean? I mean that I loved a few of the stories, others not so much. The writing was great and I was invested, but all too often a tale just finished. They felt incomplete, a chapter out of chapters. I even read one twice in case I had missed something. But no. That was it. In more cases than not, I was left thinking to myself, ‘what that’s it? What was the point of it?’
It is a great pity that I felt this way, and I say that because hey, I was hooked. I was ready to read more. To find out what was going to happen next but it was like someone had torn a book in half, read the first part only to be disappointed there was no second part. That pretty much sums it up for me.
I wish I could say otherwise. I do think there are some gems in the book that could be expanded into a novella or even a novel and I would read them. Special mention in this regard goes to ‘The Pumpkin Thief’ and ‘Night of the Spider’ the first and last.
As ever, reading is subjective and this is just my take on this book. The writing quality is there on display and in that regard, you are in safe hands. It’s just well what I said already.
Have you ever wondered about the stories behind the stories? AND THEN WE VANISH was curated from over a decade's worth of stories, culled down to what I hope are examples of my very best, and all thematically related to the idea of wanting to disappear or surviving in the wake of others who do.
The ideas for these stories organically grew from real life experiences, many of them while traveling. Past trips – that seem now like a lifetime ago – to Ireland, the Outer Banks, and Niagara Falls leant me location specific muses, while other mundane occurrences, like a weekend visiting a friend in NYC where we walked past a high-profile murder scene, or an awkward conversation between strangers overheard at a bar in Philly during a snowstorm, whispered strange details to grab my attention. Other stories in the collection are specific to time…the 1980’s of my childhood, or the 1940’s of my maternal grandmother’s young adulthood.
A unique collection of short stories that allows the reader to explore a variety of interpretations of the meaning behind the word “vanish”. D. H. Schleicher has presented a well written collection featuring a variety of settings and characters that are sure to engage each reader from start to finish. With this said, I must confess that many of these stories left me feeling unsatisfied with regards to the manner in which the author has chosen to abruptly end the pieces. In several cases, it felt as though there was an actual piece of the story itself that seemed to have vanished from the page, leaving me disappointed by the lack of resolution that I sought. This is, however, just one reader’s interpretation, and I would still encourage people to go out and find this book, particularly if you are, like myself, a writer as well. Reading Schleicher’s stories has been a great exercise for the mind into stretching the interpretation and meaning of a single concept. My thanks to the author for sharing putting together and sharing this collection of work in this fashion.
Schleicher hits the sudden surprising high note in many a story in this collection but all too briefly, which is a pity because you are left with the impression that he could have done a lot more. And Then We Vanish is still an easy read, coalescing around the theme of people (and sometimes things) vanishing, often literally but also metaphorically.
My best story of the 11 is When Night Falls on Niagara, somewhat of a departure from the literary-fiction norm and bordering on fantasy instead. Somebody You Used To Know is a deep, well-written tale but given that it's built around a school shooting, might not be for the sensitive. I also quite enjoyed Night of the Spider, a haunting coming-of-age story.
This is a brilliant collection of short stories, I thoroughly enjoyed reading these stories. They are well written and well imagined. I would recommend this to anyone.
Even though I loved all of them, I think my favourite ones were; Boko Haram’s Greatest Hits, Somebody You Used to Know and The Pumpkin Thief. But I am sure, whoever reads this collection will like all of them.