VANISHED by Mary McGarry Morris


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For her first published words anywhere, Morris molds a memorable novel--part crime thriller, part picaresque--brimful of the hard-scrabble dreams and terrors of three unusual misfits, outsiders even in their native rural and poor Middle America. Dotty Johnson is the fulcrum of the three, a beautiful, mysterious teen-aged storm who blows into the life of dim-witted Vermont laborer Aubrey Wallace one hot summer day. Disheveled, alluring, Dotty appears on the mountainside where Aubrey is laying tar and within minutes talks him into forsaking wife and kids to take to the road with her. The next day, 200 miles away, Dotty leaves their truck only to come ""tearing around the corner and into the truck with a loaf of bread, a blue mason jar filled with dimes, and a little baby girl. . ."" Thus begins a tough, chaotic life of petty crime--softened by the presence of the stolen Canny--that Morris picks up again five years ""and maybe a million miles later,"" somewhere in the South. The current of love amongst the three now runs deep, but turbulent: Dotty sleeps around, pops pills, yearns for Hollywood glamour; Canny is dirt-smudged, lice-ridden, often scared: Aubrey, fearful of abandonment, has lost all pride in tagging along on Dotty's wild ride. That ride heads north, as Dotty decides that only dumping Canny back where they got her will free her to pursue silver-screen dreams: but in Vermont, the three link up with a second battered couple, saggy Alma and brutishly sly Jiggy Huller--and real trouble begins as sexual sparks between Dotty and Jiggy flame into a fevered scheme to ransom Canny back to her natural dad, a banker. Bumbling, at each others' throats, the outcasts fall into a police trap that tragically snaps shut on Aubrey--and, in this novel's only major false note, allows Dotty her jagged, shining dreams. The contrived ending and fitful pacing at times the narrative knots up into a barefoot Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolly--mar but don't spoil the pleasure of Morris' bull's-eye insight into her vibrant characters and their sad, simple ways: all in all, an auspicious and engrossing fiction debut.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1988
ISBN: 0140272100
Publisher: Viking