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 by Jodi Picoult
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2005, 432 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2005, 448 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


Parenting Sophie—with and without Eric, depending on the year—has been much harder than I ever expected. Whatever I do right I chalk up to my father's example. Whatever I do wrong I blame squarely on fate.

The door to the bedroom opens, and Eric walks in. For that half second, before all the memories crowd in, he takes my breath away. Sophie has my dark hair and freckles, but thankfully, that's about all. She's got Eric's lean build and his high cheekbones, his easy smile and his unsettling eyes—the feverish blue of a glacier. "Sorry I'm late." He drops a kiss on the crown of my head and I breathe in, trying to smell the telltale alcohol on his breath. He hoists Sophie into his arms.

I can't make out the sourness of whiskey, or the grainy yeast of beer, but that means nothing. Even in high school, Eric knew a hundred ways to remove the red flags of alcohol consumption. "Where were you?" I ask.

"Meeting a friend in the Amazon." He pulls a Beanie Baby frog out of his back pocket.

Sophie squeals and grabs it, hugs Eric so tight I think she might cut off his circulation. "She double-teamed us," I say, shaking my head. "She's a con artist."

"Just hedging her bets." He puts Sophie down on the floor, and she immediately runs downstairs to show her grandfather.

I go into his arms, hooking my thumbs into the back pockets of his jeans. Under my ear, his heart keeps time for me. I'm sorry I doubted you. "Do I get a toad, too?" I ask.

"You already had one. You kissed him, and got me instead. Remember?" To illustrate, he trails his lips from the tiny divot at the base of my neck—a sledding scar from when I was two—all the way up to my mouth. I taste coffee and hope and, thank God, nothing else.

We stand in our daughter's room for a few minutes like that, even after the kiss is finished, just leaning against each other in between the quiet places. I have always loved him. Warts and all.



When we were little, Eric and Fitz and I invented a language. I've forgotten most of it, with the exception of a few words: valyango, which meant pirate; palapala, which meant rain; and ruskifer, which had no translation to English but described the dimpled bottom of a woven basket, all the reeds coming together to form one joint spot, and that we sometimes used to explain our friendship. This was back in the days before playtime had all the contractual scheduling of an arranged marriage, and most mornings, one of us would show up at the house of another and we'd swing by to pick up the third.

In the winter, we would build snow forts with complicated burrows and tunnels, complete with three sculpted thrones where we'd sit and suck on icicles until we could no longer feel our fingers and toes. In the spring, we ate sugar-on-snow that Fitz's dad made us when he boiled down his own maple syrup, the three of us dueling with forks to get the sweetest, longest strands. In the fall, we would climb the fence into the back acreage of McNab's Orchards and eat Macouns and Cortlands and Jonathans whose skin was as warm as our own. In the summer, we wrote secret predictions about our futures by the faint light of trapped fireflies, and hid them in the hollow knot of an old maple tree—a time capsule, for when we grew up.

We had our roles: Fitz was the dreamer; I was the practical tactician; Eric was the front man, the one who could charm adults or other kids with equal ease. Eric always knew exactly what to say when you dropped your hot lunch tray by accident and the whole cafeteria was staring at you, or when the teacher called on you and you'd been writing up your Christmas list. Being part of his entourage was like the sun coming through a plate-glass window: golden, something to lift your face toward.

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!

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Castle of Water
    Castle of Water
    by Dane Huckelbridge
    When a whopping 24 out of 27 readers give a book 4 or 5 stars, you know you have a winner on your ...
  • Book Jacket: Havana
    Havana
    by Mark Kurlansky
    History with flavor...culture with spice...language with gusto...it would be hard to find a better ...
  • Book Jacket: Temporary People
    Temporary People
    by Deepak Unnikrishnan
    In this powerful and innovative collection of 28 short stories, Deepak Unnikrishnan presents a ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Nest
by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

A funny and acutely perceptive debut about four siblings and the fate of their shared inheritance.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    No One Is Coming to Save Us
    by Stephanie Powell Watts

    One of Entertainment Weekly, Nylon and Elle's most anticipated books of 2017.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    If We Were Villains
    by M. L. Rio

    An intelligent and captivating story of the enduring power and passion of words.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

Be sincere, be brief, be seated

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Y S M B, I'll S Y

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

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

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -