Vanishing Act Essay - Critical Essays

Vanishing Act (Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In another time and gender, Jane Whitefield would have lead trains of wagons through the wilderness as pilgrims sought a new destiny in an unknown land. Save for Alaska, however, the day of the independent, self-sufficient settler is long gone. The days when an individual could break the ties between past mistakes and a new future by recourse to the trackless waste are gone. In this most modern of urban existences, the safest refuge is the anonymity of a new existence in public view, and Jane Whitefield offers her services in that regard.

Men and women pursued by predators marital and familial, or a system of jurisprudence unable to provide justice, together or alone, find their way to her door. They enter and vanish from view into a new unsuspected world of safety which frees them from their old fears. Few of these people are angels, but none of them, in Jane’s view, deserves the fate that society seemingly has decreed unless an outside agency intervenes.

Thus, when John Felker appears and relates his tale of woe, Jane provides a sympathetic, yet skeptical, ear. Felker seems reliable, so Jane launches him on a well-worn path to oblivion. Unfortunately, Felker is not the innocent victim of circumstance. He is the proverbial fox in the chicken house, and Jane must rid the world of the monster she has unwittingly aided in pursuit of its prey.

Thomas Perry rarely repeats himself in terms of characters, although his creations are connected in that each maintains a certain distance, if not detachment, from the workaday world. Those familiar with Perry’s work will welcome VANISHING ACT, and others will be pleasantly surprised.