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Vanishing Acts: A Novel Paperback – November 15, 2005

3.8 out of 5 stars 451 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. It will cut to the heart of what she holds to be true and good. As in previous novels, Picoult creates compelling, three-dimensional characters who tell a story in alternating voices about what it might mean to be a good parent and a good person, to be true to ourselves and those we love. Picoult weaves together plot and characterization in a landscape that is fleshed out in rich, journalistic detail, so that readers will come away with intriguing questions rather than pat answers.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback 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 an alternate Paperback 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: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (451 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #144,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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