The Vanishing Point
The Vanishing Point is the story of two sisters living at the end of the 17th century. The title comes from the point on the horizon where an object disappears from view. In this case, the sisters, May and Hannah have been separated by distance and marriage. May, the eldest daughter is beautiful and willful. From the age of 15 she has taken many lovers, earning her the reputation as a slut. Hannah, raised like a son by her physician father, is educated in medicine, but little else. The sisters are “as different as night and day.” When May is forced to leave their English village to marry an unknown distant American cousin, her sister Hannah is bereft. There is little correspondence between the sisters. However, by earlier agreement, Hannah is to travel to America to reside with May and her new husband, when their father dies.
A tiny mystery ensues when Hannah arrives and discovers that her sister has died along with her newborn daughter. Her sister’s widower, Gabriel, will not tell Hannah how her death occurred. Locked together in grief, Hannah and Gabriel fall in love. They have a son, and live alone on a rundown tobacco plantation in the wilderness. Trouble ensues for the two when questions arise from the townspeople concerning May’s death. There is a rumor circulating that Gabriel is her murderer. Hannah is driven to discover the truth to the detriment of her family. Unfortunately, the promised mystery can be solved midway by any reader.
The novel is well researched. However, some portions are clumsy. While the conversations are written in colloquial English, the written correspondence between the sisters is written in old English. Instead of becoming an insight into 17th century life, the passages are confusing. While attempting to alleviate questions and conflicts within the storyline the author resorts to cliché. Each of the sisters dreams about the other, while the housekeeper, Joan (and later, Adele), reads tarot cards (or bones) to uncover missing information.
The novel takes many genres and dumps them into a single work. It seems to have trouble deciding if it should be a history, a mystery, or a gothic romance. Still, if you want to read a story about women living unusual lives outside of mainstream society you may enjoy The Vanishing Point.