A moment. That’s all it takes.
A moment when everything changes.
Arrow is still haunted by a childhood tragedy that shattered her safe, happy world.
Marika is caught up in a nightmare from which there is no escape.
Two girls, dislocated, looking for answers. When they encounter a ‘magician’, they are tempted by the possibility of a way out . . .
Margaret Wild is no stranger to the Australian literary community, having written prolifically for children and adults for many years now. She is widely respected for contributions that have won a number of awards and has consistently produced stories of quality with prose that is sensitive and sparse. “The Vanishing Moment” is her most recent offering, a short novel of only 184 pages; targeted towards the older adolescent audience but also crossing over into the mainstream adult fiction market. My first impression, upon reading the blurb was that Wild was promising here a paranormal mystery. As I discovered, but not to my disappointment (although some readers may find it so), what was delivered is a contemporary novel with a dash of mystery and a drop of the paranormal.
I enjoyed Wild’s revolving, snaphot style of narration with the lives of the characters told parallel to each other until they inevitably intersect. When I reflected upon the story afterwards I realised that this structure almost seemed to echo the idea that Wild puts forward, of life being a series of doors that we may or may not choose to open. The narrative moved forward in a predictable way and surrendered just enough snippets to keep me reading the story in only a couple of large sittings.
A major strength of the book is the characters. Wild has drawn the two female protagonists, Arrow and Marika vividly. I found them likeable, but more importantly, relatable. I was drawn into their suffering, and at times, wished I could leap into the story to rescue them. I didn’t ‘get’ the character Bob at all. He is a magician, ageless; child, adult and old man. To me he was an enigma. A man with mysterious past and a blurried present that seemed to stay that way even once I turned the final page.
Wild’s story was captivating, even though I found the ending a little too tidy for my personal liking. Without wishing to ruin the surprise, I would have almost preferred the omission of the final chapter. Chapter 32 operates as a kind of epilogue. It sated my inquisitiveness but perhaps it would have been better to allow the reader’s imagination to ponder the possible outcomes alone. However, I thoroughly enjoyed what Wild was exploring here. She seems to engage with the question of alternate realities, without falling into the trap of needing to provide a Hollywoodesque explanation. This is no Sliding Doors, or heaven forbid Freaky Friday, it is something more powerful than that. Wild’s novel contemplates the scars of human suffering, loss and isolation and the natural inclination to seek refuge from it.
Reviewed by Tanya Grech Welden