Author’s note: Thank you for considering vanished. as a book club selection. I hope your group enjoys the novel. Below are a few ideas that I thought might be interesting to explore. Please let me know if you have other ideas or suggestions.
SPOILER ALERT: Several questions make oblique references to elements of the plot. They are intended to be read after the novel.
- As a child, Cassie was inspired to travel by Robert Louis Stevenson’s writings and National Geographic How do they influence her mode of travel and openness to different cultures?
- Cassie has a strong desire to learn through experiencing the world directly. On the journey, she realizes how parochial and romanticized her understanding of the world is. What does the journey teach her about other people and places? About herself?
- Cassie refers to the importance of freedom and autonomy in her life. Jack describes her as “free” when talking to his daughter. Is Cassie free? What constraints does she face and how does she handle them? Are there constraints about which she is unaware?
- Coming of age in the early 1970s, Cassie expresses feminist, secularist and anarchist values. How does she navigate patriarchal beliefs and actions in the men she encounters?
- Place is an important element in the story. Every place associated with Cassie, including Jack’s search for her, is a particular location. Yet Jack’s town and university are not identified. Why was this done, do you think?
- In Chapters 15 and 21, the protagonists succeed primarily due to their empathy and decency, and less through force or trickery. What specific examples of this are in the story?
- One of the novel’s themes is memory: not only what is remembered, but how much memory can be trusted and reclaimed. Many of the main characters explicitly deal with memory. How are their experiences with memory similar and how different? To you, whose memories seem more reliable, on the whole?