The Bookends

The Vanishing Year
By Kate Moretti

Zoe Whittaker appears to be the star in her own Cinderella story. She went from sharing a small apartment and shopping at thrift stores to a sleek Tribeca penthouse and designer clothes. Henry Whittaker, a Wall Street tycoon swept her off her feet and brought her into his world. Now, Zoe is separated from her previous life (and friends) by miles, as well as circumstances. But, Zoe’s secrets are coming back to haunt her. Five years ago, Zoe ran from her previous life and created a new life in a new place. Now, the danger that caused her to flee is close and she must decide who she can trust as secrets are revealed.

PAM I found this story as I browsed the new fiction section of our library. It sounded like an interesting and suspenseful tale! We meet Zoe as she is heading an elite event for a philanthropic organization in the city. Right away, we find that she does not feel a part of this life and is nervous about her past. Becky, what were your first impressions about Zoe?

BECKY I quickly liked this character. She was easy to connect to and I enjoyed how her story is revealed. She is currently living what appears to be a perfect life. We quickly see that maybe everything isn’t as beautiful as it first appears. Do you like the pace of this story and the style of writing?

PAM The story gets moving quickly and we begin to see troubles in Zoe’s life. I did like the writing style and the way the author reveals pieces of the mystery, but keeps the reader guessing how pieces fit together until the end. Zoe feels grateful for her new lifestyle, but we begin to see that she has very little freedom. Did you feel she was more accepting of this because she had gone through such hard times growing up and was comforted by the offered security?

BECKY I suppose that her past could have played a part in the seduction of this wealthy lifestyle. However, I think it’s more likely that she was slowly seduced, and controlled by Henry. I think that it was easy to put her guard down and enjoy all the pleasures that her new lifestyle provided without realizing the isolation that came with his love. She didn’t see that her cash allowance or the watchful eye of Henry was a prison. What did you think of Henry when we are first introduced to him? Did you think he was her knight in shining armor?

PAM I had a bad feeling about him from the beginning. There was always an edge to him or a condescending comment aimed at Zoe. When we come into the story, we are already seeing some issues in the relationship. When do you think she began to realize that it wasn’t all perfect?

BECKY I like how this character was developed but there was a bit of a disconnect for me regarding how trusting she was in this relationship. Zoe had a challenging childhood so I found her immediate dependence on Henry to be unlikely. I would have expected her to be more scrappy and guarded instead of blindly being lead by this man. However, she began to question her marriage when she accidentally sees Henry while he is working out with a beautiful woman. He is an expert at manipulating the situation but she began to start putting the puzzle together after that. Along with the marriage came a seriously devoted housekeeper, Penny. She is in charge of everything in the home from decorating to selecting dinner. Did you like the development of this character that was cold with Zoe but intensely involved in all aspects of this home?

PAM The development of this character certainly added to the unease and feeling that something was not right in Zoe’s home. The coldness that Zoe received from Penny and the brush off from Henry when she tried to discuss the situation helped to make Zoe feel isolated. Adding to her isolation is the distance that has been created between her and her friends. Zoe was working at a flower shop when she met Henry and was very close friends with one of her coworkers. She hasn’t seen any of her friends in quite some time and begins to try and connect with the friends that she left behind when she married Henry. They are reluctant to accept her after her abandonment of them. How did you feel about these three characters?

BECKY Those relationships were realistically portrayed as she delt with friends that felt abandoned. Zoe had to deal with hurt and betrayal as she mended those relationships. It also gave us a glimpse into Zoe’s past as she reconnects to her old lifestyle. There is more to this story but we are avoiding a few topics so we don’t give too much away. Do you think that a book club would have interesting discussion or is this more of a book to read on a beach vacation?

PAM I think there are some deeper topics that would drive a book club discussion around this story. I know I had some questions that would be fun to discuss in greater detail! We will go in a completely different direction with our next book: The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood. Join us as we discuss a 104 year old woman, Ona, and the boy that reignited her interest in life.

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