79 of 83 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2005
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.
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2006
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.
84 of 97 people found the following review helpful
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.
As Sophie grows from a toddler to little girl, Delia begins to remember more about her own life at her daughter's age. Images, sounds, the feel of the sun on her head, bring back fragmented memories from another time - people, voices and a place she just cannot identify. Then one evening a policeman knocks on the door with a warrant for her father's arrest, and her life and world are turned upside down.
"Vanishing Act" is written in the first person by each of five main characters: Delia, Andrew, Eric, Fitz, and Elise. Each point of view provides part of the puzzle that is the history of the Hopkins' family. I am a big fan of the author's and have never disliked any of her novels. There are some books by Jodi Picoult which I love, and others I would prefer not to read twice. "Vanishing Acts" is in the latter category, and is probably the book I like least by Ms. Picoult. The narrative feels forced, even erratic at times, and disturbs the natural flow which usually marks the author's work. She has added unwarranted drama, which fits neither the storyline nor the characters. There are scenes from prison life that, although fascinating, are tremendously distracting and excessively violent - to no purpose. Certain characters, dialogue and scenarios are just out of place and make an otherwise believable plot incredible. Unnecessary touches, like change of font and the use of boldface type to distinguish between characters' stories and chapters, are also awkward. It is as if the author could not count on the strength of her plot and storytelling ability to sustain the novel, and needed to go for the artsy effect to provide a worthy result.
On the other hand, there are people who surface here, like the Native American woman, Ruthann, who is a jewel of a character - and a prime example of what Jodi Picoult fans look for when we purchase her novels without a second's thought. I am glad I read the book. I would have been sorry to miss it. However, read parts of it in a bookstore before you decide to make a purchase. Otherwise, wait for it to come out in paperback or go to the library.
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2006
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.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2006
This is just an opinion, not a review. This book got on my nerves BIG TIME. First of all, Delia was just a whiny twit. I did not like her at all. And then all the sappy, goofy lines?? I know this is not a good example, as it would be better understood in the context of the chapter, but this one bugged me:
I haven't blamed her for not loving me. But here's where Sophie is wrong: It's not because I don't want to hurt Delia's feelings.
(new paragraph...big news...roll drums!) It's because when she is bruised, I'm the one who aches.
Wah, wah, wha...let me play my violin. Who cares? I don't get Delia at ALL -- or why these two guys are so enamored with her.
The whole Ruthann/Hopi village thing was a waste of time. I skipped it - and didn't miss a beat with the rest of the story. Boring, boring, boring. Oh, and Crazy Ol' Ruthann and her "humorous barbies"?? Whatever. I got that email over 6 years ago. Why would the author pass off an old recycled joke like that?? ([...])
I did like Andrew's character, though, and do agree he did the right thing.
To be fair, I did read Jodi P's 'Plain Truth' and it was a good read. I guess I won't give up on her yet and try 'Sister's Keeper', which a few people on these reviews have recommended.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2005
I am a huge fan of Picoult and am in the habit of snapping up her books immediately as they become available. In most cases, I am not disappointed, but with Vanishing Acts, the story kept me engaged and kept me turning the pages, but I felt the ending was pretty flimsy.
Vanishing Acts follows the story of Delia Hopkins, a woman in her eartly 30s with a small child and a troubled relationship with her fiance, who is floored when her kind, attentive father is arrested and she finds out her whole life has been something of a lie. Soon the family is in Arizona, where the trial is to be held, with the extremely unlikely situation of Delia's attorney fiance, Eric, representing her father in his criminal trial. The story is told in several different voices: that of Delia, Eric, Delia's father, and Delia's and Eric's best friend Fitz, who is predictably pining for Delia the whole time. This technique worked well in My Sister's Keeper, but in this novel, several characters are weak, there is too much going on, and too many issues being touched on for the book to be remotely believable.
Most disappointing was the ending, which seemed tacked on as an afterthought in many ways, and is again completely unrealistic. Having said all of that, I still enjoyed reading this book, but when it comes to making a recommendation, I will be going with Keeping Faith or My Sister's Keeper well before this is mentioned. If there had been a choice for 2.5 stars, I would have picked it!
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2005
A fan of Jodi Picoult, I was disappointed in this novel. Read the negative criticisms of the reviwers here rather than those who gush. I must add that the multiple voices fail: one is not distinguishable from the next, and, without the different fonts as a guide, the poor reader would be left guessing; that is, if he still cared after half way. The Hopi bits read like a tacked-on aside in the interests of jumping on the bandwagon of political correct trends in contemporary fiction.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2006
*** MIGHT CONTAIN SPOILERS***
This is my second Jodi Picoult book (the first was My Sister's Keeper). I thought both stories were engaging and I could not put them down. They were also easy-reads as Ms Picoult usually carries her stories with simple language.
My biggest problem with My Sister's Keeper was the ending. I thought it was out of a soap opera. With Vanishing Acts, I found that despite the length of the book, the characters were not fully developed. I also got frustrated with the pauses the writer made when it was time to uncover the reasons behind the abduction such as the short visits Delia makes to her dad or her newly found mother to ask questions only to leave in a couple of minutes without really getting answers because she gets too upset.I thought that was done just to prolong the story unnecessarily. I also did not know what to make of the prison scenes. At times, the whole thing felt like inmates freely visiting eachother and do whatever they pleased as if they were just visiting next door neighbours. During Andrew's short stay there, he has been through everything from abuse to drug dealing. As a person who understands chemistry I also thought writing the chemical reactions from memory, not to mention the fact that this person has not done anything remoutely similar for the last 30 years, was quite a stretch. Andrew was supposed to be a devoted father with great moral values. I found a lot of conflicts with this charecter and that is why I said earlier that some of the characters were not fully developed. Elise was another in the same category. If I do the math right, she must have only been 15 (and he 28)when she met her husband and gave birth at 16, merely a child and no one makes a point of this. Also, Delia seems to be shocked when she discovers the ethnicity and the age of her mother although she had a photo of her. I also found the untouchable devotion of the best friend Fitz to the point of losing his job and being financially unsecure for his love quite a stretch. He could have easily made arrangements to keep his job and him not doing so made the story too dramatic. I believed the struggles of Eric and I thought he was the most realistic character of all. And finally, here is what dissapointed me the most: Delia's relationship with her daughter. She kept saying all these big words about protecting her child, going after her etc and yet when she was lost she actually waits for the police for a while instead of going out for a search with Greta. And the most dissapointing of all, she does not act when she finds out that her daughter might have been with a dangarous person, she just lets go. Finally when people around this child keeps dissapearing (her granpa whom she adores or her new friend Rosann), the mother's efforts to comfort her daughter is pathetic. Not to mention her commiting adultary when she was nearby. I think a number of reviewers mentioned that they did not see anything special about Delia. Well, I think these were the reasons why she was far from being special.
It seems despite the shortcommings I mentioned above this book still had a lot to think and talk about for me and that is why I am giving it 3 stars. I think Ms Picoult has talent and I hope she uses it more for her future books and not stretch the characters or the length of the story too much next time.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2007
I won't add to what the many others have written. They've nailed it. The book was tedious. And about 1/2 of it (especial Andrew's scenes) utterly pointless. Maximum security? Please!
Just to add one point. I didn't get the ending...or maybe didn't believe it. The trail fine, I could deal with that, it was the triangle between Eric-Fitz-Delia. One I don't feel Delia should have ended up with Fitz (if she did...her talk with Eric left me totally confused and not believing she was ending up with Fitz...also Eric staying in AZ leaving HIS daughter in NH?). What really got me is for the entire novel I believed Eric and Delia loved each other and Eric was doing well (not drinking) then the author has him drink and destroy his life. He came across as so much stronger than to succumb to that. So I totally didn't believe it. I totally didn't believe (wasn't convinced) that Delia should end up with Fitz. That irked me most. That the ending felt false...and not even like an ending...completely locked in my disappointment in this book. I wanted to like it. But so much was wrong with it.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
VANISHING ACTS begins with the compelling situation of Andrew Hopkins, single father and respected community member in a small town in New Hampshire, being arrested for a kidnapping committed some twenty-eight years prior. Strangely, it is his now thirty-something daughter, Delia, whom he is accused of abducting. Ironies immediately become evident: Delia is now a search and rescuer looking for missing persons; as a child, her dad made her disappear and reappear in magic shows that he put on for seniors; and Delia has a four-year-old daughter - her age when supposedly kidnapped.
The story is told from the narrative perspective of essentially four persons: Delia; Eric, childhood friend and now a lawyer, who is representing Delia's father and is the father of her child; Fitz, childhood friend and newspaper reporter; and Andrew. The setting is primarily in Phoenix, the scene of the crime, but the characters spend a good bit of time reminiscing over numerous supposedly revealing events of the last twenty-something years in New Hampshire.
Unfortunately, the story gets rather bumpy, if not off track, rather quickly. The abruptness of the shifts of narration and startling changes in fonts of each chapter, are almost exceeded by the awkwardness of the love triangle of "friends" Delia, Eric, and Fitz. Delia just happens to be staying in a trailer park where she attaches herself to a Hopi Indian woman and becomes involved with Indian lore and mysticism, all the while her father is in imminent danger of spending many years in prison. Andrew, thrown into the general jail population, finds himself to be a pawn in the racially motivated machinations of the groupings of whites, blacks, and Latinos. His participation in jail violence and drug dealings seems forced.
Given the seriousness of the charges, one would think that Andrew, his daughter, and Eric would be more than willing to communicate and sift through memories about pertinent events. But their interactions are peculiarly strained with information reluctantly or poorly revealed. The alcoholism of Eric, Delia's fiancé, and her mother, Elise, who did not die as her father has led her to believe all of these years, is another discordant note introduced into the story.
The story is not without a certain amount of insight, but its dissonant elements detract from the coherence. One might ask as to whether the knee-jerk prosecution of an elderly man for essentially rescuing a daughter from a threatening family situation is all that tenable. And on top of that, would such a poorly mounted defense stand a chance of being successful.