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Julia Severn, an initiate at the Institute of Integrated Parapsychology and stenographer to the great seer, Madame Ackermann (a recipient of "the occult equivalent of a MacArthur"), has a lot of raw talent. So much, in fact, that the relationship between mentor and protégé quickly sinks into hostile territory when Madame Ackermann taunts Julia with specters of her late mother. After a game of mental telepathy goes awry (forget Twister," these party games the academic psychics play, they are high stakes), Julia finds herself abstractly ill, undiagnosable and unable to continue her studies with Madame Ackermann.
Julia heads to New York, where she meets Alwyn, a young woman who has "vanished" herself, leaving her family without a clue as to her whereabouts; and Colophon Martin, a one-time employer and current adversary of Madame Ackermann. They theorize that all of Julia's strange symptoms can be traced back to her former mentor: Julia is suffering from a psychic attack launched by the jealous Madame. Colophon urges Julia to check herself into Vienna's Goergen Asylum, a cavernous Art Nouveau spa for patients wishing to recover in secret from plastic surgeries, and for the vanished victims of psychic attack.
On the surface, The Vanishers is about two paranormal scholars with the ability to carry out perplexing psychic attacks on their adversaries, and it is without a doubt a chilling metaphysical mystery. But it's also a totally delightful satire of academia, where email attachments can carry luminous pathogens and psychic warfare might at any moment erupt near an Institute cheese plate; it's a medical horror story that will be intimately familiar to anyone who has ever been sick with something that resists names and medicines; and it's a darkly hilarious send-up of spa culture and the various forms of amnesia, facial disguises, and self-erasure bottled and sold to us by the "health and beauty" industry.
The Vanishers delivers pretty much every pleasure a reader could ask for, and its unusual framework weaves together the powerful themes that dominate Julavits's other novels--it gives fresh expression to the experience of grief, of mourning for one's mother and for one's vanished self, of the fraught bonds between women and the twisted consequences of female rivalry and the games that people play with one another. I was amazed by the language in The Vanishers, at Julavits's gift for distilling complex desires, dream and emotion, and certain interior experiences that I had believed to be beyond articulation, into prose of shocking beauty and originality.
The Vanishers is an absolute masterpiece. Julavits takes readers on a wild ride that hops continents and decades, but the real setting is the grey territory between sickness and health, sanity and delusion, love and hatred, life and death.One thing is certain, you will never think of "mental health" in the same way again.
Didn't like the book at all. Wound up removing it from my Kindle.Published 1 month ago by S. Penrod
I am a person who will literally read anything, just to be reading. I will reread favorite books millions of times. This book however, was off. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Kelly
interesting concept about psychics taking a physical toll on each other. It was different. Not always satisfying and maybe not fully developed, but I was entertainedPublished 4 months ago by hm
I'm not sure I know how to adequately describe this book. Totally different from anything I have ever read. I loved it.Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
This is another one of THOSE books where the book jacket description is much better than the book. I wanted to like this book, I really did. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Geni Holmes
A very strange storyline that is written as if "psychic attacks" are an everyday occurrence. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Pam Groves
Catalog description emphasizes mother-daughter aspect, but the author pursues such bizarre and arcane relationships and their political agendas that her point drowns. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Liberriladi
Not a great book but I did enjoy it...particularly enjoyed the "psychic school" concept. As a psychic myself, I'm loaning the book to my cohorts!Published 9 months ago by Judith Hunter
Was drawn in by the premise. Found keeping track of characters a little confusing (by design?), but may be my fault for making it my bedtime read.Published 10 months ago by furlagirl