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The Disapparation of James Paperback – January 28, 2004

4.3 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Alternative realities and parallel plot lines coexist in Ursu's surreal but psychologically acute second novel (after Spilling Clarence), in which a boy chosen from a circus audience to disappear during a clown's magic act really does disappear. Hannah and Justin Woodrow bring their daughter, Greta, to the circus for her seventh birthday, along with her five-year-old brother, James. Greta is outgoing, quick-witted and full of energy, while James is so quiet his mother plans to bring him to a specialist for tests. Both parents thrill when James is selected from the audience and responds charmingly to the clown's every request. Then, suddenly, James is gone. The police assign someone to watch over the family, but the officer turns from friend to aggressor while Mike the Clown is transformed from suspect to victim. Hannah dissociates, Justin obsesses and Greta does research. The child is the only one who is able to confront the loss directly. Ursu mixes realistic depictions of police interrogations and domestic tensions with fantastic interludes like a chapter imagining the day after James's disappearance as it would have been if the disappearance had not occurred. She delicately probes the worry and longing, guilt and rage, protectiveness and resentment that characterize parental love. James's "disapparation" is even more a mystery at the end of the novel than at the beginning, but it doesn't seem to matter, since Ursu wins the reader over with her humane wisdom and charming vision of the limitless possibilities of a child's imagination. One only wishes that Greta-the novel's pivotal character-were not quite so cloying.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Hannah and Justin Woodrow are enjoying a night out at a circus show with their two children, Greta and James. They are celebrating Greta's seventh birthday, and she is popping up and down in her auditorium seat unable to control her excitement over the impending show. This is not unusual for Greta, but five-year-old James, who is usually reserved and self-contained, is equally restless, and the Woodrows are quietly pleased by his recent burst of animation. When Mike the Clown makes his way onto the stage for the grand finale, he asks for a volunteer, and James surprises the Woodrows again by eagerly raising his hand. The clown chooses James to help him with a disappearing trick, and before the crowd's disbelieving eyes, little red-haired James Woodrow evaporates into thin air. Ursu maneuvers her characters through the stages of parental grief in a credible and insightful fashion, but does not support James' disappearance with physical or esoteric information, which leaves a void in what is otherwise a very innovative work of fiction. Elsa Gaztambide
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Books (January 28, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786886633
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786886630
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,689,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I read Ursu's book in two days, the whole time torn between wanting to put it down becuase it was painful, but being unable to.
I could see it all unfolding, hear it all. The details, the scenes and the dialog are expertly drawn.
But ultimately it is Ursu's themes - the randomness of loss, the chaos of a world where it takes so much courage to hold onto faith, and the risk we take when we love deeply - that makes this book a memorable one.
The Disapparation of James is a beautifully written and heartbreaking fairy tale for the times we live in.
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Format: Hardcover
This was a wonderful book. I did not really like Anne Ursu's first book, Spilling Clarence- but I did think she has a wonderful writing style. Here, her lovely, almost dream-like sentences serve the story well, and her characters are all very realistically drawn.
It's an unsettling story, with multiple points of view, and multiple realities. James, is a shy, quiet little boy, who is enthralled with the idea of seeing this magician. His parents and sister are delighted when James is brought to be on stage with the magician, and reveals an outgoing, cheerful side of himself. All is well until James really does disappear.
We see this nightmare through the eyes of everyone involved. We feel the mother's and father's separate terrors and pains, we see the sister's valiant attempts to figure out how to find James, we feel useless along with the detective assigned to watch over the family, and we see the bewilderment of the magician, himself. Where did James go?
Now, that in itself, could be a story unto itself, but Anne Ursu chooses instead to focus on the drama at home. The fact that she doesn't really explore what did happen to James is a bit of a disappointment, but the story she does tell is amazing by itself.
It's a story full of very quiet terrors, humors, and the unsettling notion that life can not only change at any second, but we may not even realize it when it does. Her writing style may be a little disorienting at first, but I think that once you start reading in earnest, it would be hard to put this book down.
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Format: Hardcover
Little James Woodrow was so shy and self-absorbed that his parents were about to take him in for testing; then, when they bring him to the circus for his big sister's seventh birthday, he actually volunteers to take part in a magic act. And, at the climactic moment of the act, he disappears. Really disappears into thin air. Poof! And his family is devastated.
So how do they cope? How do they change? Will things ever be made right? The author looks deeply into each of the characters--the father, the mother, the big sister, the clown who set it all in motion, the policeman who is supposed to guard the family--and explores their inner worlds. How will they deal with grief? What childhood demons still pursue them? What are their dreams and hopes? And what fantasies of magic and power do they still hold dear?
A profoundly psychological study of loss, grief and coping, magic is the metaphor that holds it together. Magic as illusion. Magic as escape. And the ever-haunting question--is there real magic? Author Anne Ursu writes extremely well, in lucid and simple prose. She draws you in quickly and engages you so that you can't stop reading. The characters soon become real and you care what happens to them. Well, yes, it is a bit overdone at points, a bit too sentimental, but it works well. I recommend this one highly. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.
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Format: Hardcover
I devoured this wonderful book in a day -- maternal insecurities, humor, anguish, childish wisdom, and fear all come together to weave a magical piece of storytelling. Do yourself a favor and hop on this wild and imaginative ride!
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Format: Hardcover
Anne Ursu apparently isn't short of unique ideas. This novel tells a "missing child" story like no other--James is the subject of a magic trick where he disappears, for good! While the story unfolds in the usual manner--everyone is baffled, parents, police, magician/clown and all--the real joy is how the parts of the characters tie in together. The father deals with James' disappearance with rage and despair, the mother thinks the other kids will disppear too, and so on. And in that way, the story resembles The Lovely Bones, as the reader gets to see the impact of the loss on the family, though it is told more fluidly here than in Alice Sebold's novel.
However, at a few points in the story, I felt the writing dried just a little and appeared merely competent, but overall it is a novel well worth reading.
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By A Customer on December 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
As a huge fan of Ursu's "Spilling Clarence", I preordered this one--and wasn't disappointed. Ursu knows about the things that haunt--what a child can do to a marriage and how love can appear as magically as it can disappear. Beautifully written. I just loved it.
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Format: Hardcover
I started the book with the thought that it was going to be completely boring, and the first few pages were a bit tiring, but hey, it's not a kids book. But soon enough the book got interesting and then I found myself reading 100 pages in one night. I just couldn't help it. It was amazing. The bitterness and detail and the actual feelings of the storyline touched my heart, and when I finished the book, I found myself quite sad to be finished with it. But I haven't read Spilling Clarence yet, so I'm definetly going to go for it.
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