“A mere optical illusion, Hannah,” her father told her, referring to the vanishing point on the horizon. “In truth, the ship does not disappear. The vessel is still there, even if we on the shore cannot see it.” So it transpired that both people and ships could become ghosts without ever dying or sinking beneath the waves. (Prologue, The Vanishing Point)
The Vanishing Point, by Mary Sharratt, is 364 pages and was published in 2006. It was a gift from my beloved writing critique partner, Kelly. She found it in an indie book store on the Eastern Shore of Maryland where the novel is set in the 1600’s, thus providing me with the perfect recipe for a reading experience: historical + indie bookstore + Maryland. I started it on Friday, and devoured it over Memorial Day weekend.
The Vanishing Point is the story of two sisters, May and Hannah Powers, who travel to the new world in the 1600s, separately, in order to secure their futures. First goes May, the rebellious, lusty, strong-willed, oldest daughter of the aging town physician, to wed her distant cousin from Maryland. It is a welcome prospect because of her love for adventure, and because she has shamed herself with half the village.
Hannah, the younger, intelligent, and more fragile sister, follows once her father dies, but when she arrives she meets a terrible situation. What ensues is her attraction to her brother-in-law, the freedoms of living outside of society, and ultimately, the price they all have to pay for doing so.
I couldn’t put the book down. It had a unique plot, fascinating characters, and a compelling mystery. I loved the rich descriptions of setting and society. My only disappointment came in the end, when what could have been an entire sequel’s worth of material was condensed into a letter on a few short pages, and was naturally, filled with regret. I was glad to understand all that had happened but I wished I could have read it in another novel.
Mary Sharratt is a gifted writer, and I was thrilled to learn that she has other books published. For those of you who enjoy historical fiction in the style of Philippa Gregory, you’ll love The Vanishing Point.