Overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“Matthew hated Tuesday’s the most. At least he used to. Until the Tuesday that changed everything.”
I’m a sucker for a good character and I also (secretly) enjoy a bit of an emotional read. This book was far better than I could have possibly imagined and it combined all my favourite elements into one fabulous story! From a perfect tone which really sets the story to an ending that positively moves you, the end result gave me a lovely, warm, fuzzy feeling inside. I wish I could have rated it higher, but I guess a five star will have to do… 🙂
Vanishing Hour by Lisa King follows the story of seventy-year-old Matthew Werner, who suffers from a debilitating case of Not Normal – he doesn’t know that nearly everyone on earth has died. He only knows that, out in the world, something terrible is happening – something he’s not willing to discover. So he barricades himself inside and tries to stay ignorant. That is, until twelve-year-old Ruby Sterling shows up at his doorstep, all alone.
The two have little in common. Matthew is old, strange, grumbly, and concerned only with figuring out what happened to his wife, who went missing months earlier. Ruby is serious, curious, and worried about the fate of her father and whether the future even exists. Neither wants much to do with the other. Which is why, when Ruby hears a voice on the radio telling people to come to a place called the Horizon, she’s determined to find it, even if Matthew isn’t.
Well, with a synopsis like that, how could I not be excited to read this?! It didn’t take long for me to me to get stuck into the story and to get to know the characters, or even for me to start smiling as I read! The first character we come across, Matthew Werner, is an elderly man, whose rambling and complaining was apparent straight away. His personality shone through, and I found myself laughing at his typical ‘old person’ opinions on technology and other people. The creation of this character alone and the introduction of his acquaintances in the first chapter sold this book for me straight away. We also learn about his wife, who disappeared quite recently, which really breaks your heart. I had high hopes for a truly unforgettable adventure, and a suspicion that Matthew would change some of his opinions along the way!
The author’s writing style is so enjoyable to read, and I even sent her a message when I was two chapters in to tell her this! I think if anyone asks me the kind of tone/style I like to read in future, I’ll point them directly to this book – it’s simply flawless. Everything flows so well, and I even found myself stopping a couple of times, thinking, “This is just so well done.” The book reads in such a friendly, conversational way, and it’s incredibly hard not to become attached. Even when Matthew goes on his 3pm routine walk to get groceries, you can’t help but become transfixed, especially when the usual hustle and bustle of the streets becomes deadly silent…
It isn’t long before there’s a knock on the door – in walks Ruby, a child who is frightened and alone in need of a place to stay. He begrudgingly takes her in, but continues to complain. This scenario reminded me of the Disney/Pixar film, Up, (I recommend you watch it if you haven’t seen it!) I think you’ll see some heartwarming similarities. I loved the idea of two complete opposites being forced to learn each other’s stories and work together in order to survive and feel that much needed sense of security and calmness. It takes a while for Matthew to warm to the idea, but the pair soon depend on each other to feel safe. Both of these characters have been perfectly created, and already, I loved them both so much. I found myself wanting, more than anything, for them both to find peace and to stay safe!
“In a strange way, staring at the old man was like looking into a mirror. He seemed, for a moment, a little less like a stranger.”
After fixing up an old radio, the pair hear a panicked voice telling everyone to make their way to the Horizon – to follow a group of ‘survivors’ to a safe place. I felt so involved in the story that I was thinking of the decisions I would make myself in a situation like this! The outdoors had become a dangerous place, and they were quickly running out of essential supplies. Matthew and Ruby build up their courage and agree to venture outside, and what they see out there makes them sick to the stomach. The description of the outdoor world was terrifying and easy to visualise. Was the end of the world really upon them? I was so curious and excited to see where the next part of their journey would take them, and how long they’d be able to stay safe for.
After a dangerous near miss of bullets, Matthew and Ruby are forced to flee from the safety of a street they knew, one where they felt safe. They’re soon ‘recruited’ by a group of unfamiliar people, one of which appears to be a bit of a lunatic! Jud was described like the kind of person you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of. No matter how brave Matthew and Ruby try to be, they can’t help but sense something isn’t right – and I felt the same! Even though he claimed to be one of the ‘good guys’, I thought there was much more to this. Where did he and the rest of this group come from? Where was Jud leading them? Somehow, I didn’t think it was to safety, but then again, I couldn’t even predict this character. This part of the story kept me on edge – having become so fond of Matthew and Ruby, I’d be very sad if something happened to them!
The author’s ability to make the reader feel shocked and horrified at different events along the way really impressed me! The story took an unexpected turn and quickly became much darker than before. We soon come to learn of a dreaded virus and how it came to settle down, dormant inside the human race until a specific ‘thing’ caused it to reawaken. The creation of this virus was particularly scary to read during the coronavirus lockdown, but my goodness, such a great route to take in a novel! The reader seems to be more clued up than the characters as we know about the virus, how it spreads and some of the truly terrifying things it can do to a person. Again, despite how scary it is, this was particularly captivating to read – so impressed!
Jud leads the group to a facility named Center One – a depressing place where those with illnesses or some form of disability lived and worked. A place where, Matthew and Ruby would, technically speaking, fit right in. Ruby finds her time in Center One dismal, yet Matthew’s eyes are opened when he meets new people with a range of diseases and disabilities, and eats the good food he’d long forgotten! It was really moving how the author included characters with illnesses in this way, yet the nature of this place was particularly unsettling. However, with more negative experiences in this place, Matthew begins to wonder if he’d ever get back to normal life. Ruby begins an escape plan, but is still curious about The Horizon. Would they ever get there? Did it even exist?
“And of all the crazy things to predict, who would have thought there would be such a day when weakness meant strength and sickness meant survival?”
Matthew thinks more about his wife, Tabitha, and worries about Ruby once they are separated against their will. One thing I loved about the developing story was how much Matthew grows to care for Ruby, and you can see how much he is changing as a person. Even though I really liked Ruby’s character before this point, I just grew to love her more as we see her confidence grow and the lengths she goes to in order to look after Matthew, attempt to get out of Center One and also to find her father. Her escape plan was ingenious! As with all characters you grow to love over time, I wanted more than anything for both Ruby and Matthew to have the happy ending they deserved. With how things had gone so far for the pair however, it wasn’t very likely. Would they ever find a way out? Or would Center One be the place they would spend the rest of their days?
As Ruby comes to terms with the fact that her father and Matthew’s wife are probably dead, her emotions get the best of her. This was sad to read – the girl has been through so much so young, and lost those who are so close to her in such an unthinkable way. However, despite this, she needs a plan. How is she going to survive? Where was she going to go? When she finds Matthew tinkering with the only thing she has left of her father, she notices it has been ruined. Without thinking, she assumes he purposely did so and leaves him alone. She doesn’t listen when he shouts that he has something she needs to hear about the book! I was so curious about this, but Ruby wouldn’t turn back – I wished I could jump into the chapter and tell her to give Matthew a chance!
We finally learn of what Matthew notices in Ruby’s Book Of Smart Stuff. Very exciting and totally unexpected! With a possible cure on the cards and further news about the The Horizon, the ending of the story was simply perfect and kept me engaged all the way. Matthew and Ruby both come to their senses and help each other to do the right thing. After both characters come out of a very dark place, we read a little more joy and a more uplifting tone at this point, which made me very satisfied and relieved that little bit of stress I had from the danger they were in before.
Unfortunately, Ruby begins to deteriorate, but she still shows immense determination to succeed on their journey. By picking up a stray car and encouraging Matthew to have a go at driving, their destination becomes ever closer. The pair become anxious, excited and more curious with each passing second, hoping and praying they find some answers, and maybe even the people they’ve lost along the way. As I read, I got a feeling of hope – the darkness which surrounded the middle of the book seemed to lift, and I felt much more positive about the outcome. However, nothing has been predictable so far, so I wasn’t holding my breath for the happiest ending. Curiosity was really getting the best of me at this point!
“She could see the evil in his eyes, feel it in her bones. Now, every day, every minute, was starting to feel like a race against time.”
The pair’s final destination made me tear up with both happiness and sadness and was a truly emotional whirlwind. Matthew is reunited with a familiar face and Ruby gets the emergency treatment she needs for now. Whether things work themselves out, whether the human race has met its match and even whether Ruby and Matthew get back to some normality is something we have to work out for ourselves. A sequel would be fabulous, but I also think the ending is just as good, allowing us to draw our own conclusions too. An absolutely incredible and unforgettable novel!
This book was such a delight – I’m so thrilled to have the story of Matthew and Ruby cemented in my brain! Two strangers with very different stories do what they must to find answers and stay safe in a truly horrifying experience for the human race. It combines beginnings and ends, joy and sadness as well as gains and losses, and was honestly one of the greatest stories I’ve read in recent years. The author has created two perfectly lovable characters who you can’t help but keep close to your heart, and a plot which constantly impresses you no end. For me, I enjoyed every page – the writing style from page one grabbed me in an instant and held my interest to the final word. I’d definitely recommend this book to any reader and I’d be surprised if you don’t enjoy it as much as I did!
A huge thanks to Lisa King for writing an entertaining and unforgettable novel – I enjoyed it so so much! 🙂 You can purchase your own copy of Vanishing Hour on Amazon UK or US, available on Kindle and released in hardcover in May. Make sure you’re following Lisa on Instagram and Twitter for more updates!