The Vanishing Act
  • The Vanishing Act
  • The Vanishing Act

The Vanishing Act

4.3 3
by Mette Jakobsen

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"The best stories change you. I am not the same after The Vanishing Act as I was before.”—Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus
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"The best stories change you. I am not the same after The Vanishing Act as I was before.”—Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Jakobsen’s debut novel is the refreshingly pared-down story of one girl’s tiny world and the life lessons available in the smallest of existences. A year after Minou’s Mama disappeared from the tiny island where she and her Papa make their home, the body of a dead boy washes up on shore. Everyone else on the island—Priest, Boxman, and Papa—believes that Mama is dead, but Minou remains unconvinced. Following the logic-based deductions imparted to her by her philosopher father, Minou relives the events leading up to Mama’s disappearance, searching for signs and hopeful that the dead boy may provide a clue. The night before Mama left, she, Minou, and Boxman, a circus man with a broken heart, had collaborated on a dangerous act that made Mama vanish, and Mama’s yearning for an existence outside the island is made painfully clear. The sweet yet pragmatic 12-year-old girl watches Papa’s search for “the absolute truth” grate against Mama’s love for the imagined, slowly unraveling their partnership. Jakobsen creates a lot with a little and builds on universals, proving that some truths are, in fact, fundamental. Agent: David Forrer, Inkwell Management. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Jakobsen's debut novel offers a dance between fantasy and reality on a tiny, remote island that's home to a handful of people seeking refuge from their experiences in "the war" (presumably World War II). The story is told through the voice of young Minou, whose father, claiming to be a descendant of Descartes, attempts to live his life by pure reason. Minou's mother, on the other hand, thrives on flights of fancy and does her best to give the artist in her soul free rein. One day, Mother suddenly vanishes—and a year later a dead boy in a boat arrives on shore. Minou strives to deal with these puzzling events, as do her quirky neighbors, in their equally puzzling little island world. VERDICT Fairy tale or fable? Either way, Jakobsen's work evokes the mysteries of a snowy, faraway outpost where people seem to have settled on "living the questions." This unusual journey will appeal to readers who appreciate a mix of fantasy, philosophy, and ambiguity.—Susanne Wells, Indianapolis P.L.
Kirkus Reviews
A young girl comes to terms with her mother's disappearance in Jakobsen's undernourished debut novel. Picture a small, nameless island in a northern clime, by deep, cold waters surrounded. Seventeen pines and an apple tree grow, on a high plateau the wind gusts, in one inlet fishing is good. There are but two houses, one attached to a lighthouse, and a church. Minou, 12 when we meet her, lives with her Mama and Papa next to the lighthouse. Boxman, a retired magician, and his dog, No Name, occupy the other, and Priest, naturally, is at home in the church. Minou is a descendant, on her Papa's side, of Descartes. She and Papa have a philosophical cast of mind; Mama, who arrived on the island with a pet peacock in a golden bowl, is impulsive and imaginative. When he is not fishing, cooking or trying to forget terrible hardships suffered in an unnamed war, Papa is searching, like his father before him, for the "absolute truth." Minou finds a dead boy on the beach. Out of respect for the dead, Papa opts to keep the boy in the house until the boat comes. Minou's Papa stays up talking to the dead boy and instructs his daughter to sit with the corpse during the day. No danger of putrefaction, because Papa leaves a window open in the room, and it is winter in this nameless place. This actual death and associated discoveries prompt Minou to tell us about her life on the island and her mother's vanishing. The adults think Mama is dead. Minou can prove she is not. But almost nothing can happen when characters are mere amalgams of quirks. In more capable hands this material would have been dispatched in 20 pages. A saccharine fable.

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Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.70(d)

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