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Vanishing Acts


Book Review

Title: Vanishing Acts
Author: Jodi Picoult
ISBN: 978-0-340-83549-4

Memory is a very unreliable thing.  Most of us keep on recreating our memories to make ourselves feel comfortable and the illusions created in the process of those modifications are necessary to make life bearable.  In the words of Jodi Picoult, “… after a while, you believe the fiction you’ve told yourself so well that you cannot remember the fact upon which it was based.”

Vanishing Acts is about the role of memories in human life.  Andrew Hopkins is arrested at the age of 60 for kidnapping his own daughter 28 years ago.  Delia was just 4 then and her name was Bethany Matthews.  Andrew changed his name as well as his daughter’s as he took her to another place in order to avoid being caught.  He was divorced from his wife and she was given custody of their daughter.  Andrew was allowed to visit her and what he saw during one of those visits forced him to kidnap her.  Delia was just 4 years old then.  But she has certain dormant memories which are activated during Andrew’s trial.  How reliable are those memories, however?  That is an interesting question raised in the novel.

Delia now has a little daughter by Eric who is going to marry her.  Fitz, their childhood friend, is also in love with Delia.  All these four characters – Delia, her father and her lovers – present an interesting insight into human memories as well as motives.  Love is the dominant motive.  Eric is an alcoholic which works against him in winning over Delia totally.  Fitz is a friend and little more than that as far as Delia is concerned.  Fitz loves her so genuinely that he can give up anything for her sake including herself.  Putting it another way, “When you love someone, you want her to have everything she wants,” even if that everything includes another man.

That’s a saintly approach to life and such saints don’t make interesting characters in a novel.  Even Andrew turns out to be a feeble character when he is arrested, burdened by an unnecessary sense of guilt.  This could be a reason why this particular novel of Picoult’s didn’t attain the degree of success that the others did.  Nevertheless, the questions raised about the role of memory in human life are worth pondering about.

The novel has quite a few thought-provoking sentences such as: “Maybe Fate isn’t the pond you swim in but the fisherman floating on top of it, letting you run the line wild until you are weary enough to be reeled back in.”


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