Excerpt from Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Vanishing Acts

By Jodi Picoult

Vanishing Acts
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Mar 2005,
    432 pages.
    Paperback: Nov 2005,
    448 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


Greta yanks on the end of the fifteen-foot leash and hustles at a clip for a few hundred feet. A beautiful bloodhound, she has a black widow's peak, a brown velvet coat, and the gawky body of the girl who watches the dancers from the bleachers. She circles a smooth, bald rock twice; then glances up at me, the folds of her long face deepening. Scent will pool, like the ripples when a stone's thrown into a pond. This is where the child stopped to rest.

"Find her," I order. Greta casts around to pick up the scent again, and then starts to run. I sprint after the dog, wincing as a branch snaps back against my face and opens a cut over my left eye. We tear through a snarl of vines and burst onto a narrow footpath that opens up into a clearing.

The little girl is sitting on the wet ground, shivering, arms lashed tight over her knees. Just like always, for a moment her face is Sophie's, and I have to keep myself from grabbing her and scaring her half to death. Greta bounds over and jumps up, which is how she knows to identify the person whose scent she took from a fleece hat at the day-care center and followed six miles to this spot.

The girl blinks up at us, slowly pecking her way through a shell of fear. "I bet you're Holly," I say, crouching beside her. I shrug off my jacket, ripe with body heat, and settle it over her clothespin shoulders. "My name is Delia." I whistle, and the dog comes trotting close. "This is Greta."

I slip off the harness she wears while she's working. Greta wags her tail so hard that it makes her body a metronome. As the little girl reaches up to pat the dog, I do a quick visual assessment. "Are you hurt?"

She shakes her head and glances at the cut over my eye. "You are."

Just then the Carroll police officer bursts into the clearing, panting. "I'll be damned," he wheezes. "You actually found her."

I always do. But it isn't my track record that keeps me in this business. It's not the adrenaline rush; it's not even the potential happy ending. It's because, when you get down to it, I'm the one who's lost.



I watch the reunion between mother and daughter from a distance—how Holly melts into her mother's arms, how relief binds them like a seam. Even if she'd been a different race or dressed like a gypsy, I would have been able to pick this woman out of a crowd: She is the one who seems unraveled, half of a whole.

I can't imagine anything more terrifying than losing Sophie. When you're pregnant, you can think of nothing but having your own body to yourself again; yet after giving birth you realize that the biggest part of you is now somehow external, subject to all sorts of dangers and disappearance, so you spend the rest of your life trying to figure out how to keep her close enough for comfort. That's the strange thing about being a mother: Until you have a baby, you don't even realize how much you were missing one.

It doesn't matter if the subject Greta and I are searching for is old, young, male, or female—to someone, that missing person is what Sophie is to me.

Part of my tight connection to Sophie, I know, is pure overcompensation. My mother died when I was three. When I was Sophie's age, I'd hear my father say things like "I lost my wife in a car accident," and it made no sense to me: If he knew where she was, why didn't he just go find her? It took me a lifetime to realize things don't get lost if they don't have value—you don't miss what you don't care about—but I was too young to have stored up a cache of memories of my mother. For a long time, all I had of her was a smell—a mixture of vanilla and apples could bring her back as if she were standing a foot away—and then this disappeared, too. Not even Greta can find someone without that initial clue.

Copyright © 2005 by Jodi Picoult. Printed by permission. Excerpted from the book Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult published by Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Take This Man
    Take This Man
    by Brando Skyhorse
    "A chorus of six men calling me Son might sound ludicrous to you, but to me it's the sound of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Hundred-Year House
    The Hundred-Year House
    by Rebecca Makkai
    Rebecca Makkai's sophomore novel The Hundred-Year House could just have easily been titled ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Valley of Amazement
    by Amy Tan
    "Mirror, Mirror on the wall
    I am my mother after all!"


    In my pre-retirement days as a professor ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Arsonist
by Sue Miller

Published Jun. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  133Tomlinson Hill:
    Chris Tomlinson

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.