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Vanishing Acts: A Novel Paperback – November 15, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Each of the five narrators in this excellent audiobook speaks intimately to the listener, capitalizing on the emotional complexity of Picoult's heart-wrenching tale. Delia Hopkins, read with simple grace by Gibson, immediately seizes the listener's attention when she relates how, on an ordinary day in smalltown New Hampshire, her beloved father, Andrew, is arrested for having kidnapped her, 28 years earlier, from the mother she long thought was dead. Delia's fiancé, Eric, and her best friend, Fitz (both of whom are given appropriately cultured New England accents), add dimension to this multifaceted exploration of love and identity, but Delia's parents, read by Jenner and Washington, offer the most noteworthy performances. Jenner successfully conveys the rainbow of personalities Andrew encounters while being held in an Arizona jail. Washington, meanwhile, embodies Delia's darkly tragic mother, who emerges as both a gentle healer with a dulcet Southwestern accent and a mother who was never there for her young child. Simultaneous release with the Atria hardcover (Forecasts, Feb. 7). (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From Bookmarks Magazine

What better title than Vanishing Acts to describe a search-and-rescue worker who turns out to be a missing person herself, as well as the daughter of an amateur magician who makes people disappear? Reviewers praise Picoult (My Sister’s Keeper ***1/2 July/Aug 2004) for her cleverness and her abilities as a storyteller, but her tendency to hang her narratives on Issues-with-a-capital-I has limited appeal. Her 12th novel seems particularly overcrowded with themes and subplots addressing the nature of identity, parental and platonic love, Native American mysticism, prison conditions, alcoholism, memory, and much more. The story is told in first-person narratives presented in alternating chapters by the book’s five main characters, but this contrivance quickly wears thin. All in all, Vanishing Acts is a somewhat muddled effort from the best-selling author.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press; Reprint edition (November 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743454553
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743454551
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (398 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,373 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jodi Picoult is the author of twenty-two novels, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers "The Storyteller," "Lone Wolf," "Between the Lines," "Sing You Home," "House Rules," "Handle with Care," "Change of Heart," "Nineteen Minutes," and "My Sister's Keeper." She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

77 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Stefanie on December 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
I have read many of Ms. Picoult's novels and I always find them to be both provocative and enjoyable. She is not afraid to tackle big issues that are surrounded by shades of gray, and her characters always live in the everyday but wrestle with life-shattering challenges.

VANISHING ACTS has a similar format to all of the other novels of hers that I've read, with a story that resolves itself as the characters debate a moral issue in a courtroom. But this story is strong and works well laid over Ms. Picoult's standard structure.

Delia Hopkins, the main character who's in her early 30's, learns that the beloved father who has raised her actually kidnapped her as a young girl. She was taken away from her mother in Arizona, given a new identity, told that her mother was dead, and then grew up with no memories of any of her life before they moved to New Hampshire. The secret comes out, and Delia now must come to terms with what her father has done and with the still-living mother she never knew. Delia is a mother herself, now, and she spends much of the novel reconciling her own hurt and anger over being taken away with her perspective as a mother who'd do anything to protect her child. Toss in Delia's fiance (a lawyer) and her male best friend (a reporter) who both have strong interests in the legal case, and you have the main love triangle that drives the story.

This was a fast-paced, compelling read. There were a few sections that I thought slowed things down (most of the story of the father in prison) but Ms. Picoult also managed to weave in a nice element of Native American mythology through the Arizona setting.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By apty on February 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
**Contains spoilers**

Although I initially found the story somewhat engaging, it just unraveled at the end. When Delia's father tells her that he is not sure if he remembered her abuse or imagined it, I wanted to throw the book against the wall. He was sure enough at the time to commit assault and battery, but then he waited 6 months to take her away! I can't imagine having that kind of uncertainty about something so vitally important.

Why didn't Andrew ever say anything to Delia or Eric about Eric's alcoholism? You would think with his first hand experience he would have warned his beloved daughter about the perils of such a relationship.

Why was Delia so ready to dump Eric and jump into the arms of Fitz? I think we all know that one doesn't lightly and easily endanger such a long-standing and precious friendship. In fact, the whole Delia-Fitz-Eric triangle was just too unbelievable. No woman is so perfect that two delightful men will carry a torch for over a decade with so little resentment towards her or each other.

Why didn't Delia bring charges against Victor when she knew he wanted to prey on her daughter? Didn't she have any moral desire to protect other innocent girls from him?

What was the point of giving us a detailed recipe for making methamphetamine?! Or the lenghty list of Phoenix-area gangs? These and many of the violent prison scenes just seemed gratuitous to me.

I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Anita Lanning on March 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I'm glad it's not just me. This was one of the most tedious and frustrating novels I've ever read (or actually listened to via audiotape). Was it really necessary to share every event in this story from every character's point of view? I found myself longing to fast forward (not possible on my download) and ended up playing it while not listening, hoping desperately that at some point, SOMEthing would happen! And I swear there were points when, if I had to hear what a wondrous creature Delia is one more time, I'd scream. In fact, I DID scream and fortunately I was in my car and no one heard. I'm still not finished with it, and I fear my Ipod might just explode before I get to the end. Possibly, there IS no end. There are few books that I've found intolerable in my decades of reading, but this is one of them. A definite "don't waste your time" in my opinion.
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82 of 95 people found the following review helpful By Jana L. Perskie HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Cordelia Hopkins makes a living finding lost people. She and her beautiful bloodhound, Greta, have a terrific track record for leading successful search-and-rescue missions. They're very good at what they do. As "Vanishing Acts" progresses, it becomes obvious that Delia has had an unusually intense interest in loss, of both people and memory, stemming from her third year of life.

Raised by her warm and loving father, Andrew, Delia had as happy a childhood as anyone could wish for. Her dad, a widower, was always right there for her. She could talk to him about anything...and she still can, she believes. Sometimes, she would think about what it would be like to have a mother and fantasize about meeting her in heaven. Her mom died in a car crash when she was a small child. On the other hand, it seems to Cordelia that she and her father have lived forever in the same cozy house in rural New Hampshire, just the two of them. He has run a local senior center there for as long as she can remember, and has always been active in community affairs. Although she has vague memories of a woman who smelled of vanilla and apples, Delia remembers almost nothing of her life prior to Wexton, NH.

Her two next door neighbors are her two best friends and have been for most of her thirty-two years. She grew up with both of them. Eric Talcott, her fiance, is the father of her pre-school daughter, Sophie. They are in the process of planning their wedding. Fitzwilliam MacMurray, (Fitz), formed the other part of their triumvirate from the time they were little kids. They were a "fungible" trio, as Fitz once put it. In high school, when Eric and Delia fell in love, the three-way friendship continued and still does, years later. Eric is now a lawyer, and Fitz a journalist.
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