This thriller features one female protagonist, but she is really more than one person. Confusing? I just mean that at various stages of her life she has had very different lives, with different names, but, she is still trying to become comfortable in her own skin.
At first we meet Zoe Whittaker, a beautiful Manhattan socialite married to millionaire businessman Henry Whittaker. She appears to have it all. A very handsome, rich, caring husband, a luxurious penthouse apartment, a house in the country. To tell you the truth, I was unimpressed by the first chapter of the book. It was just all too perfect and I felt that perhaps I had picked up a Harlequin romance by mistake…
Then… we begin to learn about her former life. She WAS Hilary Lawlor. A college student who lived with her adoptive mother in California. They were always just scraping by financially, but they were very close. When Hilary’s adoptive mother died from cancer, Hilary became untethered and riddled with guilt at not being able to provide her a decent burial. Because she was filled with self-loathing, she got involved with some unsavory people and began to take drugs, even selling them, until she was abducted and tortured – which was her own personal ‘low’. After testifying against her abductors, she flees California and reinvents herself as Zoe.
She finds work at a florist. It is through her work that she meets Henry, who provides her with everything a girl could desire. Through Henry, she transforms from a sort of punk girl with fishnet stocking and multiple piercings to an elegant and sophisticated woman wearing haute couture.
From a reader’s point of view, Henry is more than a bit creepy.
Yes he’s rich, and handsome, BUT… he has terrific mood swings, he is controlling, he wants to know what Zoe does every minute of the day, he buys her clothes, shoes and jewelry that is to his taste, but perhaps not hers, but they DO suit her and fit her perfectly…
Zoe feels increasingly useless.
Zoe’s days are long and lonely. Henry hires help to clean and cook, so she has little to fill her days. She becomes interested in C.A.R.E., a charitable organization that seeks to support adopted and orphaned children. It is a cause that is dear to her heart, as she has always been curious about her birth-parents. A journalist that covers a society fundraiser for C.A.R.E. befriends her and together they seek out her birth-mother. Henry is highly suspicious of her ‘friendship‘ with the reporter and exhibits some less than healthy reactions to her new friend. Also, he disapproves of her searching for her birth-mother, stating that her life with him should be ‘enough‘.
Then, strange things begin to happen… She is almost killed by a careening car at a busy Manhattan intersection, her apartment is broken into…. She wonders if her past life as ‘Hilary’ is catching up to her. Have the men she testified against in California been released from prison? Should she tell Henry about her past life, her past name, her sordid past? And what of HIS past. His life before her is a mystery that he does not talk about.
Zoe Griffin — Hilary Lawlor — Zoe Whittaker
Thanks in part to her journalist friend, Cash, Zoe locates her birth-mother who agrees to see her. What she tells Zoe on that visit rocks Zoe’s world to it’s foundations.
“It takes a lifetime to grow into the person you’ll become.”
“The vanishing year” is a well-paced domestic thriller. With overtones of subtle menace, the reader wonders who are the good-guys and who are the bad-guys. The suspense increases steadily until the pages fairly turn themselves. The ending chapters contain a plot twist that will make your blood run cold.
I will definitely read more by this author, and recommend her novels to anyone who enjoys psychological/domestic thrillers.
I received a digital ARC of this novel from Atria Books via NetGalley in consideration of my honest review.
Kate Moretti is the New York Times Bestselling author of Thought I Knew You, While You Were Gone, and Binds That Tie, and The Vanishing Year . She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two kids. She’s worked in the pharmaceutical industry for ten years as a scientist, and has been an avid fiction reader her entire life.
She enjoys traveling and cooking, although with two kids, a day job, and writing, she doesn’t get to do those things as much as she’d like.
Her lifelong dream is to buy an old house with a secret passageway.