My first encounter with Jodi Picoult’s work was through Weights and Measures, which I read in a book of short stories. In the review I wrote, I described it as “an amazing story of grief and loss and how it can transform people and not just in the psychological sense”. That story had stayed with me – the sadness, the emotions, the feeling of emptiness I imagined the characters in the story must have felt. And so I stored it in the back of my mind and made a mental note to keep an eye out for this author.
A couple of weeks ago I went to a bookcrossing meeting, an event which takes place once a month here, in Bangkok, and where people come to talk about and swap books. To my surprise and delight, somebody had brought Vanishing Acts and that’s how I got to read it.
Delia Hopkins is a young woman engaged to Eric, the man she loves. They have a daughter, Sophie, who is 4 years old. Delia’s job is finding people and this she does with the help of a bloodhound named Greta. She lives with her father, Andrew. She thinks her mother is dead. She is haunted by flashbacks she can’t explain, like the one with a lemon tree and a man who calls her grilla.
The mystery of those memories is about to start unraveling when her father is arrested. Seemingly unimportant things have an explanation now and everybody seems caught up in a web of intrigue. Eric, who’s a lawyer and has chosen to represent Delia’s father in court, Delia, who’s about to discover things about her past, Fitz, a childhood friend, who is trapped in the middle, between his feelings for Delia and his friendship with Eric.
The story is told by the characters in separate “chapters”, providing the reader with a varied perspective of the events. The author explores the drama of alcoholism and the effect it has on families, cultural diversity through snippets into the American-Indian and Mexican culture, and things people do to protect the ones they love.
I nearly gave up on the book after the first 80 pages or so – things seemed somehow…disconnected and the dialogue lacking, but there was something in the way the author described the parents-children relationships that appealed to me and helped me get over my reluctance to keep reading.
This is a book about family, about sacrifices and hard decisions, but most of all it’s about one man’s love for his daughter, whose happiness and well-being always came first.
An interesting novel.
*read in August 2011