cover image Vanished


Mary McGarry Morris, Mary McGarry-Morris. Viking Books, $16.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-670-82216-4

In Morris's strong and painful first novel Aubrey Wallace, a simple, goodhearted laborer on a Vermont road crew, thinks the frail girl who beckons to him from a wooded stream looks like a picture book fairy. And like some malevolent enchantress, Dottycute, tarty, amoral and utterly freaked outenthralls Aubrey and lures him away from his family to his ultimate ruin. Sexually mistreated as a child, Dotty has committed atrocities that surface only later in the narrative. She has also kidnapped a baby girl named Canny. Now Dotty enlists Aubrey's help in making a wandering, criminal half-life for the three of them, as they bounce around the countryside for five years in a pickup truck. When they run into degenerate ex-con Jiggy Huller, living in backwoods squalor with his bovine wife Alma and their sad little girls, Dotty is nearly outmatched. A clumsy scheme is cobbled to collect ransom money from Canny's wealthy parents. But Aubrey loves poor-nit-infested, rheumy-eyed Canny, who clings to him screaming with terror, ``Don't dump me, Poppy.'' The story drives inexorably to its cynical and wrenching climax, fueled on booze, drugs and human misery. (June)