What happened next?
July 2, 2016 8:40 PM   Subscribe

Years ago I read the first installment of a serial story in one of my mother's magazines, and I've always wondered how it ended. Hoping someone can help point me to its source, or tell me how it ended.

Sometimes these short stories in women's magazines were adapted to a short story form from a popular novel. (Back in the late nineties I happened to discover another such serial that I'd been wondering about was actually condensed from a novel by Rona Jaffe.) I'm hoping this short story was also and that there's a book I can track down and read, or failing that, that someone can at least tell me how it ended. This story appeared in a woman's magazine, probably either Family Circle or Woman's Day, in the mid-1980s. I don't remember either the title of the short story or the author's name.

Here's what I do remember. The story involved two adult sisters. The younger sister was named Barbara (AKA Babs) and the older one was named Pauline or Paulette -- I'll go with Pauline for the purpose of this question. Barbara and Pauline are eight years apart in age. When they were 21 and 29, their dying mother told them she planned to leave them each an equal sum of money and a half share in the family summer home, a somewhat remote and rustic cabin in the woods. Both sisters agreed that they'd rather split their inheritance differently. Pauline, who'd just sold her first novel, wanted a quiet place to live in and write the next one, while Barbara, who was just finishing college, wanted the money so she could travel. Their mother obligingly willed Barbara the money and Pauline the cabin. Barbara travelled through Europe until her inheritance was gone, then married a man she'd met during her travels (I think his name was Luke), and had two sons with him. Pauline went on writing novels and living in the cabin.

At the time the story opens Barbara is 28 and Pauline is 36. Barbara is very frustrated and bored with her life as a stay at home mother. Her family lives in a small apartment and Luke is working long hours at his job in the computer industry and also taking courses in an effort to get ahead in his career. Barbara feels like a frump who never gets any time to herself or to do anything interesting. She bitterly regrets spending her entire inheritance on a European tour and blames her family for not knowing better than to give her all that money at such a young age. One day she decides she can't take it anymore and packs up her two boys and herself and heads off to Pauline's cabin in the woods without telling Luke.

When Barbara gets there she finds the formerly rundown cabin has been changed beyond all recognition into a beautiful residence. She's very jealous of Pauline, her success as an author, her glamorous appearance, her wonderful home, and her closet full of lovely clothes. Pauline points out that it took her years to renovate the cabin as she has had to budget her money very carefully in order to be able to have enough to live on from book to book, and that her wardrobe is an investment because she needs it for her book tours and other promotional appearances. Pauline tries to lead Barbara to see that she does have a lot going for her, such as her two adorable sons, and to encourage Barbara take constructive measures to improve her life such as taking up library science studies as she once wanted, but this falls on deaf ears. Barbara calls Luke, who is frantic over the disappearance of his wife and sons, to tell him she and the boys are fine but hangs up when he asks where they are. She spends her time at the cottage very self-indulgently, leaving Pauline to care for the two boys, which consequently causes Pauline to fall behind schedule on her work. Pauline is also getting very frequent letters from a male fan, and is quite properly creeped out by them, while Barbara considers it romantic and flattering(!!!!).

The installment ends when Pauline and Barbara, who've been drinking beer and reminiscing about old times in the kitchen, go outside to find Barbara's boys. The paragraph in italics at the end said that in next month's installment, they can't find the boys, and that Barbara calls Luke in a panic while a stranger waits in the woods.

Does this ring any bells for anyone? Yes, the story's a pot boiler but I'd like to put that 30-year-old niggling curiosity to rest. And it'll be a bonus for me if Barbara gets slapped in the next installment.
posted by orange swan to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Okay, thanks to google books and some kind of convoluted further searching, I can answer a few things about this. It was a mystery novella called "Vanished!" (this title *did not* make searching easier) by Nancy Thayer that was published in three parts in Redbook magazine in 1984. It doesn't seem to be available as a stand-alone book, from what I've been able to find.

I can't see enough info to tell you how the story ends, and, frustratingly, I can't tell you which editions of Redbook, exactly, the three installments appeared in, but according to google books, they are in Volume 163, which apparently covers May - October, 1984. The July issue has "Exciting! Summer Mysteries" mentioned on the cover, so that might be a good place to start.

However! Nancy Thayer has a website with a contact form, so you may be able to get better info directly from the author. Good luck!
posted by taz at 2:11 AM on July 3, 2016 [12 favorites]

No answers for you - but you could try asking Help A Bitch Out on the romance readers' site, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. Sounds like their sort of thing. Also, I now want to read this.
posted by paduasoy at 2:52 AM on July 3, 2016

I'm hooked just by reading your synopsis! If anyone finds out what happens, for gods sake let us know!
posted by james33 at 3:15 AM on July 3, 2016 [17 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow, taz, I'm impressed that you managed to figure this out with an internet search. I need to work on my Google-fu.

Now I have to figure out how to get access to archival copies of Redbook. Good luck to me with that.

That collection of Redbook covers that you linked to dating back to the magazine's launch in the early 1900s is actually pretty cool! The May 1984 cover looks familiar while none of the other covers from 1984 do, so my guess is the serial ran May, June, and July of that year.
posted by orange swan at 5:59 AM on July 3, 2016

Please let us know what happens!!
posted by nkknkk at 6:04 AM on July 3, 2016 [13 favorites]

Now I want to know what happens too! That Barbara sounds like a real charmer.
posted by Jubey at 5:30 PM on July 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

Check your local library! They may be able to find it for you.
posted by sarcasticah at 12:20 PM on July 4, 2016

I am at the library now and have just found the first part in the May 1984 issue on microfilm. I will print out all of the story pages from May, June and July and upload when I get home later. Thanks to Taz for the initial groundwork!
posted by i feel possessed at 12:27 PM on July 5, 2016 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: OH MY GOD, thank you, i feel possessed, you are awesome!!!! I was going to consult a librarian when I next go to the library as I intend to during the next couple of days, but you saved me the effort.

That Barbara sounds like a real charmer.

She's just plain aggravating. I may be remembering her unfairly -- after all, I was only ten when I read this story -- but I remember thinking even at the time that she was really immature and prone to blaming everyone else but herself for the consequences of her own actions. The two sisters are clearly very different people who have always been at very different developmental stages of their lives due to their eight year age gap, and there's always been a certain envious dynamic between them. The first installment also said that Pauline got her nose out of joint when Barbara was born, because she was a cute and cuddly and golden-haired and blue-eyed and angelic-looking little thing whom everyone adored while Pauline, with her darker, more aquiline looks, was considered a plain child. But then she was only eight years old, and she grew into her looks and got over it. She also suffers some pangs because Barbara has children and she doesn't, but she doesn't act out on it in any way or let it get it in the way of her being a good aunt.

We may need to discuss this novella in FanFare.;-)
posted by orange swan at 6:41 PM on July 5, 2016

Hi, everybody! Sorry to keep you waiting, but in a tragic twist of fate the library's scanning app failed to email me the last several pages of the scans and I didn't find out until I'd gotten all the way home. It's like the universe is conspiring against us to keep us from finding out what happens! So I'm going to go back tomorrow to rescan the missing pages and I'll post again when they're uploaded. :D
posted by i feel possessed at 9:59 PM on July 5, 2016 [7 favorites]

Best answer: SUCCESS!

PDF format:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

(I realized earlier that this might not be 100% kosher if Redbook and/or Nancy Thayer disapproves, so I fully support the mods if it's necessary to delete this comment to protect the site.)
posted by i feel possessed at 5:55 PM on July 6, 2016 [6 favorites]

Well, now I've read it I want to slap them both! Thanks for posting the PDFs, I'm always amazed at the ingenuity of Mefi readers to find the impossible. And what impressed me the most is orange swan's spot on recollection of the first instalment - after thirty years, I swear you have what appears to be a photographic memory of it. You must ace exams...
posted by Jubey at 9:10 PM on July 6, 2016

Looks like you can preview the complete files on the site (though the resolution isn't as good as the .pdf), but the downloads aren't actually working. Goog has led me astray! :[

Here's an alternate for those who want to download:
Vanished (.zip archive @ Filedropper, ~30MB)
[p.s. Ignore the giant fake "download" ad if you're not adblocking, you want the dark grey "Download This File" button.]
posted by i feel possessed at 9:30 PM on July 6, 2016

Response by poster: I've stayed up way too late reading all three parts! Turns out I did remember the first part pretty accurately considering I read it 32 years ago and was only ten years old at the time. And that was not where I thought the plot was going. I expected a potboiler thriller but it turned out to be a contrived melodrama instead. And yes, once I got to part 2, Paulette turned out to be just as unlikable as Babs -- actually, I'll have to say she's more unlikable. But it was so great to finally find out what happened. Thanks so much to Taz and i feel possessed for doing all the research and legwork it took to make this story available for us all (because this definitely stopped being just my quest pretty early on;-)) to read.
posted by orange swan at 11:39 PM on July 6, 2016 [5 favorites]

« Older Where's the Beefeater?   |   How can I live in Mexico? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.