Review Blog

Sep 18 2013

The vanishing moment by Margaret Wild

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2013. ISBN 9781743315903.
(Age 14+) Highly recommended. Adolescent. Mystery. Supernatural. Arrow is still haunted by a childhood tragedy that has left her mother overprotective and Arrow apathetic about her future. Marika is a talented young artist making sculptures and attending university, and whose life is turned into a nightmare after one moment of inattention. Both are at a cross-road in their lives. What would happen if they could live a different version of their lives? Who would it affect?
Wild takes us on a journey of three lives in three narratives, commencing with Bob whose live is so appalling that as a reader I was left breathless with the abuse both physical and mental that was dealt out to him by his stepfather. Arrow's story then follows. She is a sleepwalker, whose habit nearly leads her into danger, only to be rescued by her neighbour out walking his dog. She is indifferent to life, sleeps until midday and has not kept in touch with her friends. She thinks often of her childhood friends and what would have happened if she had reported that they were left alone at night. Marika makes intense sculptures, but also looks after her young brother Jasper and promises not to let go of his hand. Terrible circumstances bring all three together when they meet at Shelley Beach and Arrow is told of the Interchange that she could have accepted to right the terrible wrong that had happened to the friends that she had loved. Bob has used the Interchange but Marika and Arrow must make a decision about it.
After some heart wrenching twists one group of people is finally happy at the expense of the other. Then Wild adds a last chapter showing what would have happened if Arrow had accepted the Interchange when it was offered to her as a child and how each of the different characters that the reader had met would have prospered or suffered.
This is a novel that begs for a second, closer read to follow up the literary references, to Borges' story The garden of forking paths and Gwen Harwood's poem The twins, and the questions of ethical choice. Would Arrow cause more harm by giving money to a beggar who might spend it on alcohol, or would she be helping him? It should garner much interesting discussion and would be an ideal literature circle book or class set.
Pat Pledger

Archived Blog Entries