The Point of Vanishing

Written by Maryka Biaggio
Review by Janice Ottersberg

The writer Barbara Follett’s life is told in this biographical novel, beginning at the age of four in 1918 until her disappearance in 1939. Barbara quickly shoots to fame as an eight-year-old child with the publication of her first novel. The House Without Windows becomes a publishing sensation with her stunning descriptions, “Strong, narrow wings beat down the air as the birds rose again, to hover and swoop and plunge.”

She is an inquisitive and adventurous child with exceptional intelligence. Living within nature is essential to her – hiking, sailing, and traveling the world. At the age of 13, Barbara sets sail on a square-rigger as research for her pirate poem. The Voyage of the Norman D, her sailing memoir published in 1928, results from this adventure. As her next adventure, she spends a year in the South Pacific with her mother. This trip is to be inspiration for her next book, but she falls into a writing slump and fails to deliver on an advance from her publisher. It is heartrending to read about her spiral downward beginning at age 14, as she continues having difficulty living up to her previous successes, and her works repeatedly rejected.

In 1934 Barbara marries, but is stifled by domestic life. Her need to be a free spirit and seek adventure never leaves her. In December 1939, with her marriage falling apart, Barbara walks out of her house and disappears, leaving behind a never-solved mystery of what happened and where she went.

This novel is exceptional in the skillful writing and the vivid portrayal of Barbara’s fascinating existence as a child prodigy, and her life unraveling. Biaggio reimagines what happened to her when she walked away from her home and husband in December 1939. This is a touching and poignant story that will inspire you to seek out Barbara’s writings.