Sunday, June 05, 2005

Vanishing Acts

I just finished reading an amazing book: Vanishing Acts, by Jodi Picoult. It's going onto my life-time list of favorite books.

I don’t want to give away the plot, but here’s how Publisher’s Weekly described this book:

"Delia Hopkins was six years old when her father allowed her to be his assistant in the amateur magic act he performed at the local senior center's annual Christmas pageant. "I learned a lot that night," recalls Delia, who is now 32, at the start of Picoult's absorbing new novel (her 12th, after My Sister's Keeper). "That people don't vanish into thin air...." She has come to know this even better as an adult: she makes her living finding missing people with her own search-and-rescue bloodhound. As she prepares for her wedding, however, Delia has a flash of memory that is so vivid yet so wildly out-of-place among the other memories from her idyllic New Hampshire upbringing that she describes it to a childhood friend, who happens to be a reporter. Soon, her whole world and the world of the widowed father she adores is turned upside down. Her marriage to her toddler's father, a loving but still struggling recovering alcoholic, is put on hold as she is forced to conduct a search-and-rescue mission on her own past and identity."

The novel explores so many rich and resonant ideas: Are the memories of childhood that you carry with you real, or have they been constructed out of what you want to have happened? What makes you feel safe? What would you do to protect your child? When you find out something new about your own past, does that change who you are?

I found myself struggling to read this book more slowly, because I felt so immersed in these characters’ lives. Also, Picoult’s writing is so gorgeous, effortless seeming, but with amazing echoes as metaphors and concepts loop back and connect up with other ideas.

When I finished this yesterday afternoon, there were tears running down my face. I’m reluctantly returning this novel to the library tomorrow, but I’ll be at the bookstore buying my own copy. This is a book I’ll want to read again, and again.

By the way, I also highly recommend Picoult’s other novels, all of which I’ve read. She seems to specialize in finding an ethical dilemma and unravelling all sides of it through the eyes and voices of compelling characters. "Keeping Faith" has been my favorite, but I think it’s a close second to "Vanishing Acts." I highly recommend this novel.


  1. Don't you just love libraries? I think Plain Truth is on my Top 10 of all time list... but I didn't like Keeping Faith as much, so I haven't read more. Maybe I'll give Picoult another try.

  2. Diane, I just put a hold on Vanishing Acts at my library - I love finding a new author, esp. a prolific one - thanks for the heads up!

  3. Diane,

    I was just about to recommend Vanishing Acts to you because of the New Hampshire lawyer connection. The writing is great. I was wondering, though, if the legal parts were realistic...can a husband of the "victim" represent his father-in-law? And does NH and Arizona (?) have reciprocity? Anyway, thanks for commenting on my blog. I'm going to bookmark yours now.