Summary and book reviews of Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult

Vanishing Acts

by Jodi Picoult

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

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Book Summary

What happens when you learn you are not who you thought you were? When the people you've loved and trusted suddenly change before your eyes? When getting your deepest wish means giving up what you've always taken for granted? Vanishing Acts explores how life -- as we know it -- might not turn out the way we imagined; how doing the right thing could mean doing the wrong thing; how the memory we thought had vanished could return as a threat.

New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult is widely acclaimed for her ability to tap into the hearts and minds of real people. Now she explores what happens when a young woman's past -- a past she didn't even know she had -- catches up to her just in time to threaten her future.

Delia Hopkins has led a charmed life. Raised in rural New Hampshire by her widowed father, Andrew, she now has a young daughter, a handsome fiancé, and her own search-and-rescue bloodhound, which she uses to find missing persons. But as Delia plans her wedding, she is plagued by flashbacks of a life she can't recall. And then a policeman knocks on her door, revealing a secret that changes the world as she knows it.

In shock and confusion, Delia must sift through the truth -- even when it jeopardizes her life and the lives of those she loves. What happens when you learn you are not who you thought you were? When the people you've loved and trusted suddenly change before your eyes? When getting your deepest wish means giving up what you've always taken for granted? Vanishing Acts explores how life -- as we know it -- might not turn out the way we imagined; how doing the right thing could mean doing the wrong thing; how the memory we thought had vanished could return as a threat. Once again, Jodi Picoult handles a difficult and timely topic with understanding, insight, and compassion.

Prologue

I was six years old the first time I disappeared.

My father was working on a magic act for the annual Christmas show at the senior center, and his assistant, the receptionist who had a real gold tooth and false eyelashes as thick as spiders, got the flu. I was fully prepared to beg my father to be part of the act, but he asked, as if I were the one who would be doing him a favor.

Like I said, I was six, and I still believed that my father truly could pull coins out of my ear and find a bouquet of flowers in the folds of Mrs. Kleban's chenille housecoat and make Mr. van Looen's false teeth disappear. He did these little tricks all the time for the elderly folks who came to play bingo or do chair aerobics or watch old black-and-white movies with soundtracks that crackled like flame. I knew some parts of the act were fake -- his fiddlehead mustache, for example, and the quarter with two heads -- but I was one hundred percent sure that his ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. When she learns she was kidnapped as a child, Delia's choice of profession takes on a new significance. What motivated Delia to pursue a career in search-and-rescue? Does she view it differently once she knows about her past?
     
  2. Delia says that as children she, Fitz, and Eric each had their roles: "Fitz was the dreamer; I was the practical tactician. Eric, on the other hand, was the front man: the one who could charm adults or other kids with equal ease." Have they continued these roles into adulthood? How so? Is each one comfortable in his or her role, or is there a longing to be something different?
     
  3. In one instance Eric muses that "there are people in this world ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

New York Times - Janet Maslin

''Vanishing Acts'' is too busy to be tightly focused. And its main event, delivery of the bombshell about Delia's past, arrives so early in the story that it renders the rest anticlimactic.

The Boston Globe - Karen Campbell

"Vanishing Acts" is richly textured and engaging, and there are a few twists and turns that keep the plot from being too predictable. But ultimately, "Vanishing Acts" is about the elusive nature of memory. "Memories are like a still life painted by ten different student artists: some will be blue-based; others red; some will be as stark as Picasso and others as rich as Rembrandt; some will be foreshortened and others distant. Recollections are in the eye of the beholder; no two held up side by side will ever quite match."

Rocky Mountain News - Amy Stoll

Extraordinarily detailed, Picoult's exhaustive work fills Vanishing Acts to the brim with realistic suspense, suggesting that often what we choose to remember doesn't astound us nearly as much as what we choose to forget.

Publishers Weekly

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.

Kirkus Reviews

An experienced novelist takes her sweet time to rich rewards: overall, an affecting saga, nicely handled.

Reader Reviews

Sandy

Close to home
Only close to home because of the alcoholics in the family, and the fact that a child doesn't always have protection...we remember some things, but what do we really remember? The book hooked me from the start, and I have to say I am relieved at ...   Read More

Abby Malan

Vanishing Acts -- A story of rebuilding trust
“Vanishing Acts” not only takes you on a journey through Delia’s eyes, but also through those of her loved ones- Her father, fiancé, and best friend. Delia is a strong willed individual whose life gets thrown upside down when her father gets arrested...   Read More

Alyssa

Jodi Picoult's
Best-selling author Jodi Picoult has written a number of novels with intricate plots and deep characters. Her story-lines are emotional and dive into controversial issues that are happening in today‘s world. I had the pleasure of reading two of these...   Read More

Whitney

Vanishing Acts
A great book. I Loved the subject matter--a Father kidnapping his own daughter to protect her from an abusive mother. As in all her books Jodi Picoult picks topics that make you think and question what is morally right, and Vanishing Acts is no ...   Read More

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