Monday, 10 October 2011

Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult

GENRE: contemporary fiction/family drama

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 fiance, 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.

Vanishing Acts is a touching, gripping and thought-provoking novel about family and betrayal.

Delia Hopkins is a happy woman. She is engaged to a man she has known almost all her life, has a daughter with him, a supportive best friend, a job that pleases her and a father she can always turn to. Things were not always easy for Delia, but in general, she has led a good life. The only thing that mars her happiness are the memories of things she doesn’t remember experiencing herself and that fills her with much confusion. Then, one day, the police come to arrest her father for kidnapping a child more than twenty years ago and Delia learns the shocking truth: the child her father kidnapped was her and she used to be called Bethany Matthews.

Delia embarks on a difficult and heart-breaking journey of self-discovery, trying to determined if her life has been a lie and if she can still love her father after his great act of betrayal, or learn to love the woman who says is her mother.

Picoult focuses on very serious and important topics in this novel. In the foreground is the question of whether something that is labeled a crime is a really a crime when done for honourable reasons, and the reader is provoked into answering the question with a startling answer. The author also discusses alcoholism, child abuse, how far one would go to survive, as well as Indian spiritualism and its effects on someone who has been yearning for answers all their life. There is certainly no lack of themes in the book and they are all difficult issues with no easy answers. Picoult explores all sides of one issue, leaving space for several different interpretations. Life is not only black and white, and the author definitely attests to this truth.

The problem I had with this novel was, in fact, that there are perhaps too many story lines. While I must compliment the author for truly focusing on every character and on every circumstance that they come upon with skill and thoroughness, I must confess that I did not always see the point in all of them. I know the author tried to cover all possible aspects of this shocking tale, to truly make the reader see and feel sympathy for different people, but some scenes were redundant and did not really serve a purpose. As much as I am interested in Native American culture, for example, it seems that almost everything connected to the Indian character in the novel, and to this culture, was just the author’s way of expressing her vast knowledge on the topic that she has used in another novel. I appreciate the effort, but sometimes it distracted me from the actual problem.

Delia also makes drastic changes in her love life. I understood why she would feel that was necessary, but it still seemed a bit fast for my taste, if not slightly forced. She seemed to happy about it, which means something, but I can’t help but feel that her heart was not really in it.

Still, the novel was a highly enjoyable read and it was ever so thought provoking. I agreed with certain things I might have otherwise condemned, and vice versa. The novel focuses on all those gray areas in life, when something that’s wrong is actually right, and something that feels right is really terribly wrong.

In my opinion, the novel has a satisfactory conclusion which proves that justice is still appreciated in this world, that child protection is encouraged and desired, and that love can overrun all obstacles. Some may not agree with me, as it’s easy to accept the things that happen in the novel, but reality is not always easy, anyway.

This novel can be enjoyed by anyone who likes a good family drama and who is not afraid to be faced with difficult answers and situations. The novel will leave you emotionally raw, but it is a rewarding read. I am fast becoming a fan of Jodi Picoult.



Jo K said...

Too many story lines can be tiresome. However, Delia' story sounds intense. Great review!

The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

I'm pretty sure I read this and enjoyed it. Glad you're becoming a Picoult fan-I know I read all of her new releases and I'm hoping to at some point go back and read all of her old books too.

Blodeuedd said...

Another author I have not read, oh well I can save it until I am old and grey ;)

Jan von Harz said...

I have read a few novels by this author and have found them all very entertaining. Based on all the issues I think I can understand why you felt there was too much going on. I would have probably felt this as well.

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