|The Vanished is an extended exploration of absence—absence by death, absence by choice, all the absences that inevitably become part of our lives.
In the late 20th century two families, one in America and the other in Britain, struggle to recover from the sudden and shattering loss of three common members in an airplane explosion. The brother and uncle of the vanished, a sculptor called Malcolm, maps his way forward through his passion for a stranger and his devotion to a painting by the nineteenth-century French artist Jean François Millet.
In his own time, Millet himself manages, year after year—through bad times and good, success and failure—to stay away from his childhood home in Normandy, whose landscape and people inspire his artistic vision. Only when his grandmother, then his mother, and finally his last remaining sister pass from the world is he able to return.
|Above all, this novel concerns itself with grief—as a journey but also a destination and a starting place, as an affliction that ultimately provides its own antidote. The characters of The Vanished all pine for absent family members, but for each, recovery is defined by the idiosyncratic manner in which they pine, their own special and inimitable approach to grief.