Book Review: The Vanishing Season
G Girls started vanishing in the fall, and now winter’s come to lay a white sheet over the horror. Door County, it seems, is swallowing the young, right into its very dirt. From beneath the house on Water Street, I’ve watched the danger swell. The residents know me as the noises in the house at night, the creaking on the stairs. I’m the reflection behind them in the glass, the feeling of fear in the cellar. I’m tied—it seems—to this house, this street, this town. I’m tied to Maggie and Pauline, though I don’t know why. I think it’s because death is coming for one of them, or both. All I know is that the present and the past are piling up, and I am here to dig.I am looking for the things that are buried.
ashley | The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson quickly sets a haunting scene. A family leaves everything behind and moves to a small town and a remote house that needs a lot of work. Immediately there’s the sense of loss. Maggie, the teenage daughter, isn’t exactly happy about the change but understands it’s her new reality and tries to adapt. The house is surrounded by fields and it rains a lot, and in the winter it snows a lot, and everything is quiet except a few noises in the distance. An isolating feeling.
This is the perfect setting for strange occurrences; like the strange girl next door who doesn’t seem to have many boundaries, or the drowned girl who might have been harmed or might have killed herself or might have been the victim of a horrible accident, or the boy two doors over who the town whispers about, or the strange being whose thoughts interject into the story, a being that seems to be living in the house and watching this new family. Is it a ghost? We don’t know yet, but what we do know is that this being seems incredibly lonely, which just adds to the strange, eerie fog that is starting to settle in around this story.
While the main character here is Maggie, it’s Pauline who I tend to gravitate towards more. Maggie definitely gives the reader the insight into all these aspects of the story, but it’s as if the story is about everyone but her, and she’s just observing, the common thread tying all their lives together.
Pauline is one of the loneliest, melancholy characters I have ever met. She’s breathtakingly beautiful and rich, with the world at her fingertips, but she is weighed down as if that world is on her shoulders. Seeing how losing her father has affected her mother, she distances herself from any close relationship, refuses a great love that is right in front of her, dates a guy she can hardly even stand because he “makes it easier” and avoids living her life or making any big changes for fear that it will severe those remaining ties to her deceased father and their memories.
Pauline’s friendship with Liam (her potential great love that she turns a blind eye to) and Maggie is also interesting to me. You can tell she’s fiercely loyal and open with them both, but she’s also incredibly protective of herself and distances herself from them at the same time. She basically personifies that essence of being alone in a group of friends. Like I said, one of the loneliest characters I have ever met.
Of course, that is besides the being that is hauntingly observing the three friends. A ghost, though we have no real context as to whose ghost it is or where it came from (yet). But there’s a similar loneliness in its existence as well. It longs to be a part of the friends’ lives in the simplest of forms.
Some of the prose in this book is absolutely beautiful. Most of what the ghost says is so beautifully haunting. I keep using haunting to describe this book, but I don’t mean it in a traditional ghost story sense, I mean it more in a way that it seeps into your soul and hovers there, lingering, something you can’t shake.
In fact, this isn’t a ghost story at all. It isn’t paranormal or spooky, despite the existence of a ghost. Actually, this book isn’t really anything. Not a whole lot actually happens. We just sort of observe a moment in their lives and witness how they each teach each other and grow with each other. But I kind of liked that about this story. While it’s stocked full of drama, no one really acted dramatically. It was almost like there was an air of unnatural maturity among everyone; they were just super accepting of the events and while certain things were scary and disappointing and heartbreaking, they just dealt with it the best they could.
Pauline could have easily been an annoying character, Maggie could have been too much of a push over, Liam could have been a real jerk, but they weren’t, they were all genuinely good people trying to do good by each other and the only thing I want to do now is give them all one giant hug and tell them it will all be okay. They kind of broke my heart.