The Art of Vanishing: A Memoir of Wanderlust

In The Art of Vanishing: A Memoir of Wanderlust, Laura Smith attempts to track the disappearance of Barbara Follett, an early 20th-century wunderkind author. While reading through Barbara's books and letters, Smith can't help but see the similarities between Barbara's thirst for adventure and her own. Smith loves her husband but has always wanted a nontraditional lifestyle. As she and her husband explore the boundaries of an open marriage and the inevitability of routine, Smith's desire to know what happened to Follett grows ravenous. She hopes to find answers to her questions about marriage and freedom, or at least kinship with a woman who shares her love of being untethered.

Smith's memoir approaches her taboo subject matter with directness and honesty. Her style, which is fluid and shockingly clear, hides nothing as she plunges into the depths of her own marriage. She tells her story alongside Follett's, drawing the comparisons deftly but with emotional nuance that skillfully avoids cliché. The memoir's most impressive feat is its ability to build momentum seamlessly between Smith's search for Follett and her experimental open marriage. The obsessive energy and tireless passion Smith brings to her story allows the book to feel both deeply personal and undeniably recognizable. Smith's memoir never suggests any easy answers to her questions about love and marriage, but rather stares bravely at the questions themselves. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

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