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Vanishing Acts - Jodi Picoult
Member Name: thingywhatsit
Vanishing Acts - Jodi Picoult
Date: 30/01/07, updated on 30/01/07 (514 review reads)
Advantages: Light enough reading for holiday material.
Having read her more popular books that touched on subjects such as an infant being found dead in an Amish Barn and the moral questions that followed the event (Plain Truth), and a book about a young girl who was conceived for the purpose of supplying her sister with the necessary bone marrow to keep her alive (My Sisters Keeper), I was astounded at this writers' gift for tackling the difficult and make it seemingly effortless and natural. The third book that I read was The Pact, where she dealt with adolescents, and the deep rooted and problematic background that lead to a very sad conclusion.
It was because of my experience of Picoult that I bought this book, and expected it to follow in the footsteps of other books by the same author. The premise of the story showed promise, and a little phrase on the cover got me pulled back into the world of Jodi Picoult, with a huge tug of anticipation. It stated that it takes two people to make a lie work, the person that tells it, and the one who believes it.
Vanishing Acts is the story of Delia Hopkins whose life is pretty comfortable and lives in New Hampshire in the present day, and whose job is finding missing people. As the story unfolds, Delia is having flashbacks of her childhood, strange pictures from a past that she thought was one of wild imagination rather than anything else, though was it ? When a policeman calls at the door of her house, her world is turned upside down, and will never be the same again, although giving much more than this away would indeed spoil the read.
Compared with other stories by Jodi Picoult, I have to admit to this being weaker than her usual stories. I had such a clear picture in my head of all the characters that she creates in her other books. It's almost like a colour photograph of such clarity that it stops you in your tracks with its definition and dealings with subjects that matter. In contrast this book didn't hold well together, and although it dealt again with moral dilemma, didn't do it in as convincing a manner as her other books did.
The characters portrayed in the book came out fuzzy at best, and I really did not picture them as I had in previous books by the same author. For example, the father of Delia was portrayed as a weak character at best, and even though she tried to spice up his character a little bit by his interaction with prisoners at an American Jail, it didn't work, and the interactions were stilted at best. Even the main character of the book, Delia, wasn't portrayed as being any particular kind of person, almost as if the canvas remained blank. She has a little strength of character, though even explaining her background and the events that shaped her life didn't work. There was an introduction of friends of Delia, and I felt that these were padding, rather than an effective part of the overall picture.
Delia's mother was strange as well, and usually what Jodi Picoult does is to portray the players so that you know them as well as you would any character in a series you are watching on the television. You see their characters, but not just picturing their looks, but actually getting to know the manner in which they behave in given circumstances. Here, the story didn't work and made little sense. The introduction of Ruthann, a native who originated from the Hopi tribe, was odd at best and served little purpose in furthering the readers understanding of the events as they unfolded.
The chapters are told in first person by the various characters of the story, and the reader is perpetually questioning the content, and who is actually narrating, which I found irritating as the chapters really did not follow each other easily, and involved too much jumping from one narrator to the next.
I did like the contrast of locations for the book and the comparisons between the countryside in New Hampshire and Arizona, and found the snippets of information about the scenery interesting, though frankly got bored by the padding of introducing too many aspects into the book in an effort to make it all give texture to the story. If anything, it detracted from the story's worth.
I have every book that the writer has written, and giving her credit where credit is due, all of the other books that she has written have proven her worth as a writer of emotional books. It is inevitable that one book gets measured against another, when the choice is so wide, although if you have never read Picoult before, I would certainly not recommend this book as an introduction to the best of what this lady produces. It isn't.
Written style 5/10
Comparison with other works by the same author 2/10
Paperback: 417 pages
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Paperbacks; New Ed edition (20 April 2006)
My advice - Buy her other books. They are better value. At a new price of 5.59 GBP on Amazon, it is worth noting that second hand copies of this book are available from 1p.
Summary: Not one of this authors better works.