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The Uses of Enchantment

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Overview

In late afternoon on November 7, 1985, sixteen-year-old Mary Veal was abducted after field hockey practice at her all-girls New England prep school. Or was she?

A few weeks later an unharmed Mary reappears as suddenly and mysteriously as she disappeared, claiming to have little memory of what happened to her. Her mother, concerned that Mary has somehow been sullied by the experience, sends her to therapy with a psychologist named Dr. Hammer. Mary turns out to be a cagey and ...

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Uses of Enchantment

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Overview

In late afternoon on November 7, 1985, sixteen-year-old Mary Veal was abducted after field hockey practice at her all-girls New England prep school. Or was she?

A few weeks later an unharmed Mary reappears as suddenly and mysteriously as she disappeared, claiming to have little memory of what happened to her. Her mother, concerned that Mary has somehow been sullied by the experience, sends her to therapy with a psychologist named Dr. Hammer. Mary turns out to be a cagey and difficult patient and Dr. Hammer begins to suspect Mary concocted her tale of abduction when he discovers its parallels with a seventeenth-century narrative of a girl who was abducted by Indians and later caused her rescuer to be hanged as a witch. Hammer, eager to further his professional reputation, decides to write a book about Mary's faked abduction, a project her mother sanctions because she'd rather her daughter be a liar than a rape victim.

Fifteen years later, Mary has returned to Boston for her mother's funeral. Her abduction—real or imagined—has tainted many lives, including her own. When Mary finds a suggestive letter sent to her mother, she suspects her mother planned a reconciliation before her death. Thus begins a quest that requires Mary to revisit the people and places in her past.

The Uses of Enchantment weaves a spell in which the power of a young woman's sexuality, and her desire to wield it, has a devastating effect on all involved. The riveting cat-and-mouse power games between doctor and patient, and between abductor and abductee, are gradually, dreamily revealed, along with the truth about what actually happened in 1985.

Heidi Julavits is in full command of her considerable gifts, and has crafted a dazzling narrative sure to garner her further acclaim as one of the best novelists working today.

* Mp3 CD Format *. "The Uses of Enchantment" weaves a spell in which the power of a young woman's sexuality, and her desire to wield it, has a devastating effect on all involved. The riveting cat-and-mouse power games between doctor and patient, and between abductor and abductee, are gradually, dreamily revealed, along with the truth about what actually happened in 1985. Heidi Julavits is in full command of her considerable gifts, and has crafted a dazzling narrative sure to garner her further acclaim as one of the best novelists working today.

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Editorial Reviews

Lily King
In some aspects, Heidi Julavits's intricately constructed third novel, The Uses of Enchantment, is a classic postmodern examination of the complexity and irony of narrative. But relax. Julavits, in her probing of the politics of storytelling, does not deny us a good story; The Uses of Enchantment is also a highly compelling, old-fashioned quest.
— The Washington Post
The New Yorker
The author’s third novel is a spooky coming-of-age tale set in West Salem, Massachusetts, a town whose witch-hanging history both captivates and circumscribes the lives of the teen-age girls who reside there. One afternoon in 1985, sixteen-year-old Mary Veal disappears from field-hockey practice at the austere Semmering Academy; she reappears a few weeks later claiming to have been abducted. The truth of what happened is only hinted at in Mary’s sexually charged experiences with her supposed captor and in her provocative exchanges with the therapist assigned to her case. He decides that Mary is lying—aspects of her story seem taken from a previous student’s faked abduction, itself inspired by a centuries-old fable involving a kidnapped girl and witchcraft—but, it turns out, he is not without his own agenda. Julavits expertly keeps the reader baffled until the end, but beneath the mystery is a sophisticated meditation on truth and bias.
Publishers Weekly
On November 7, 1985, Mary Veal, 16, a not especially distinguished upper-middle-class girl, disappears from New England's Semmering Academy. A month later she reappears at Semmering, claiming amnesia, but hinting at abduction and ravishment. The events in Believer editor Julavits's third, beautifully executed novel take place on three levels: one, dedicated to "what might have happened," is the story of the supposedly blank interval; another is dedicated to the inevitable therapeutic aftermath, as Mary's therapist, Dr. Hammer, tries to discover whether Mary is lying, either about the abduction or the amnesia; and the present of the novel, which revolves around the funeral of Mary's mother, Paula, in 1999. There, Mary feels not only the hostility of her sisters, Regina (an unsuccessful poet) and Gaby (a disheveled lesbian) but Paula's posthumous hostility. Or is that an illusion? This structure delicately balances between gothic and comic, allowing Julavits to play variations on Mary's life and on the '80s moral panic of repressed memory syndromes and wild fears of child abuse. While Julavits (The Effect of Living Backwards) sometimes lets an overheated style distract from her central story, as its various layers coalesce, the mystery of what did happen to Mary Veal will enthrall the reader to the very last page. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly

Echoes and parodies of complex psychosexual antecedents, including Freud's analysis of Dora, the Salem witch trials and parts of The Malleus Maleficarum, underlieJulavits's third novel. The novel's complex structure (it spans 15 years and weaves back and forth in time) creates listening problems that tax even a skilled performer like Shelly Frasier. Mary Veal, who may or may not have been kidnapped as a teen returns to West Salem, Mass., years later for her mother's funeral. Characters sound too similar: Mary sounds too much like her teen self and the two male characters, Mary's first therapist and the alleged kidnapper have almost identical voices. The same problem conflates Mary's sisters, Regina and Gaby. Frasier does a better job with Mary's well-to-do Aunt Helen and Roz Biedelman, Mary's second therapist, who is the manipulative spider at the center of this tangled web of a novel. Enchantmentmight be too much for any single reader to tackle, and a cast approach would have been a better idea. However, Frasier is an engaging performer, and the spell of this beguiling work will entrance listeners to the very end. A Doubleday hardcover (Reviews, July 10, 2006). (Feb.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal
In her third novel, Julavits proves to be something of a sorceress herself, weaving a commanding, sophisticated narrative that is both vivid and dreamlike. We are immediately riveted by Mary, a caustic, pained teenager who may or may not have been abducted when leaving school and later becomes the subject of two books with diametrically opposed viewpoints, whose authors each have an ax to grind. (Julavits zestfully skewers psychotherapy and writers of pop psychology.) The dialog crackles with wit and energy. "I'd like to point out that you've gone zero to bitch in less than 3 minutes," Mary imagines saying to a psychotherapist whom she confronts as an adult, and she tells her hapless abductor, "Just because you have amnesia doesn't mean you're an all-purpose idiot." But the story has many moments of real pathos as well, exploring family loss and state of the art dysfunction. It skillfully probes Mary's inner world, pointing out that imagined reality demands equal time and that life's real battles play out in our hearts and minds. Highly recommended.-Laurie Sullivan, Sage Group Int'l, Nashville Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A twisting, Rashomon-like novel about a high-school girl who vanishes for several weeks, then returns, to accusations that she faked her abduction. On Nov. 7, 1985, 16-year-old Mary Veal slipped away from field-hockey practice at her posh suburban Boston school. On New Year's Eve, she reappeared, sitting on a bench near the athletic fields, claiming to have been abducted. Forced into therapy by her domineering mother, Mary faces her toughest challenge yet. The book begins omniscient in a glimpse entitled "What Might Have Happened." The story then deftly shifts from Mary's life in 1999 to that of Dr. Hammer, her therapist in 1986. As the three voices alternate, Julavits slowly reveals the totality of Mary's experience. Hammer's perspective is clinical, but Mary is no ordinary patient. In Mary's therapy sessions, we see the power of a girl in bloom. Mary is petulant, frustrated, caged. Hammer opines that she is extremely intelligent and crafty. There are substantial similarities to an earlier case involving another girl from the same school, ultimately proven to be false. Mary's mother, Paula, the proud offspring of a Salem witch, lives up to her family heritage by condemning Mary's act as one of pure defiance. For Paula Veal, damage control for the family reputation is far more important. Hammer goes on to author a bestselling book about a hypothetical Miriam, a young girl with a pathological gift for imagination. Mary's disappearance seems to begin and end as fiction. Branded a liar, she becomes a pariah. In 1999, however, Mary has returned home for the funeral of her mother. As ghosts from her past swirl around her, she begins a ritual that opens up dark places. What reallyhappened in 1985 is a fragment of a much larger story. An older, wiser Mary is now ready to confront her demons. Julavits (The Effects of Living Backwards, 2003, etc.), a founding editor of The Believer, perfectly captures the siren call of adolescent women, and the aftermath of those who are lured in. Potent and intoxicating: a dangerously seductive book.
From the Publisher
"Frasier is an engaging performer, and the spell of this beguiling work will entrance listeners to the very end." —-Publishers Weekly Audio Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400078110
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/8/2008
  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 589,458
  • Product dimensions: 5.19 (w) x 8.01 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author


Heidi Julavits is the author of two previous novels, "The Mineral Palace" and "The Effect of Living Backwards," as well as a collaborative book, "Hotel Andromeda," with the artist Jenny Gage. She is a founding editor of "Believer," and her writings have appeared in "Esquire," "Time, The New York Times," McSweeney's" "among other places." "She lives in Manhattan and Maine.

In addition to narrating audiobooks, Shelly Frasier has appeared in many independent film and theater projects in Arizona and southern California, and she has developed character voices for animation projects and done voice-over work for commercials.

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Read an Excerpt

What Might Have Happened

NOVEMBER 7, 1985

The following might have happened on a late-fall afternoon in the Boston suburb of West Salem. The afternoon in question was biting enough to suggest the early possibility of snow. The cloud cover made it seem later than the actual time of 3:35 p.m.

The girl was one of many girls in field hockey skirts, sweatpants, and ski shells, huddled together in the green lean-to emblazoned with Semmering Academy's scripted S. It had rained all morning and all afternoon; though the rain had temporarily ceased, the playing field remained a patchwork of brown grass and mud bordered by a rain-swept chalk line. Last month a Semmering wing had torn an ankle tendon in similarly poor conditions, but the referee refused to call the game until 4 p.m. because the preparatory school extracurricular activities rules and regulations handbook stipulated that "sporting events shall not be canceled due to weather until one hour past the official start time."

At 3:37, the rain recommenced. The girls whined and shivered while Coach Betsy glowered beneath the brim of her umass crew baseball cap. These girls were not tough girls and they had little incentive, given their eight-game losing streak, to endure a rainy November afternoon.

At 3:42, the girl asked Coach Betsy if she could be excused to the field house. The girl did not say, but she implied that she had her period. Coach Betsy nodded her reluctant permission. The girl departed from the lean-to, unnoticed by her teammates.

***

Rain pattered over the grass as the girl traversed the empty field, her cleats suctioning in and out of the mud. She did not hurry. The man, she knew, would wait for her. Every afternoon the man parked across the street from the cemetery where she and her friends escaped after lunch to smoke cigarettes. At first they thought he was an undercover cop or a truant officer, someone hired by their headmaster Miss Pym to keep tabs on their forbidden roaming during school hours. But the man's car, a 1975 gray Mercedes, rendered this suspicion unlikely. He'd since been downgraded to probable pervert and treated by the girls as their mascot, rallying proof of their irresistibility. The girl made sure to pause each day in his line of vision to adjust her knee sock, or swing her Semmering-issue skirt around so that the rear knife pleats snapped back and forth like a school of fish when she walked. She had noticed that, as the weeks of fall progressed, as the trees became more and more naked and the humid tropical haze over the cemetery thinned to an astringent veneer, the man stopped watching in his non-watching way the anonymous passing of girls and focused on one girl in particular.

This should have been thrill enough.

The girl entered the new field house. She meandered down the empty halls with their long fluorescent tube lighting and glassed-in trophy cases, she pushed through the swinging olive-green door into the olive-green locker room with the olive-green tiles and the pervasive smell of pink hand soap. She stood in front of the mirror. She applied some lip balm but otherwise did nothing to improve her appearance. She was wet, she was bedraggled, and like all teenagers after a halfhearted day of French, trigonometry, study hall, drama, field hockey, she was in desperate need of a ride and a greasy meal, two very innocent things to want, even from a stranger.

She spun her locker combination, she propped her field hockey stick inside her locker and removed her book bag. Then she changed her mind, replacing her book bag, removing her stick. On her way toward the front doors of the field house, she stopped in front of the thirty-foot-long mural dominating the lobby. Miss Pym and the Semmering trustees, after securing the funds for the new field house, had announced a mural contest in which "entries should illustrate, with reference to our area's rich past, the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of New England women." The winning mural depicted women being chased by tomahawk-wielding Indians and women tied to stakes, their skirt hems blotted by flames fanning upward from crudely rendered piles of logs. The clouds above the heads of the soon-to-be-scalped-or-burned women transformed, with a little squinting and very little imagination, into faces that surveyed the scene with expressions commonly interpreted as enthusiasm. To the handful of actively feminist teachers at Semmering, these possibly enthusiastic clouds were read as a perverse endorsement of injustice against women by the school's trustees, who "noted" their complaint as a way to actively ignore it. The mural's official title--The Disappearing Women--was all but unknown among the student body, who referred to the thirty-foot wall painting as The Grin-and-Bear-It Mural; to them it aptly summed up the way they had been taught to approach the world by parents and teachers: to keep their sadness to themselves even as they were materially spoiled in this suburban enclave with its lurid history of torment.

The girl walked past The Grin-and-Bear-It Mural, heart beating at an average pace, the disappearing women gazing down at her with their irisless eyes. She exited the field house and walked three blocks north to the cemetery. She saw the man's gray Mercedes parked near the stone archway, the engine running, windshield wipers chick-chocking back and forth. The rain had increased its intensity, the patter giving way to pelting drops that formed puddles and then rivers as the water slooshed toward the leaf-clogged drains. The girl took her time. Water dripped from her nose and her chin and the hem of her skirt, soaking a perfect dark line across the thighs of her sweatpants. Her cleats made squinching noises as she walked. So little light seeped through the clouds at 3:59 p.m. that the streetlamps buzzed and ignited.

She sidled next to the Mercedes. By the car's interior light she could see the man's head bent over his newspaper. His hair fell longer than the collar of his scruffy trench coat and this slight unkemptness suggested that he was not indispensable to any job or anyone. The girl had decided that he was a banker or possibly a doctor but an undedicated one; she'd decided that he had enough family money that his profession was simply a decent way to keep his days occupied. There were plenty of men like this in her town; he was an identifiable and harmless type.

The girl paused in the ambient light shining through the Mercedes's window, illuminated, she imagined, like a beguiling specter.

The man pretended not to see her. How coy, she thought. It increased her fondness for him, the fact that he was treating this abduction like a formal courtship. Using the upturned goose head of her field hockey stick, she tapped on the glass.

The man stared at her. He reached over his newspaper to roll down the window.

The girl leaned into the car. She smelled old cigarette smoke and damp carpets. Close up, the man appeared more tired, more old, more possibly crazy.

She coughed, momentarily unsettled by the fact that this man might not be who she'd imagined him to be. She clamped her neck with the U formed by her thumb and forefinger the way her mother did when talking to someone she disliked at a cocktail party, squeezing her fingers tightly around her own throat.

The girl asked if he had a dime.

No response.

For the pay phone, she explained. Her ride had left without her, and home was too far a walk in the rain.

He responded with cautious politeness, which she read as bewildered gratitude to some unspecified higher power that this girl should walk into a trap he had yet to even set.

I'll drive you home, he said.

He unlocked the passenger-side door, sprung the latch.

The girl scurried through his headlights. She paused on the curb as the opposing team's athletic bus drove by--it was 4:05 by Semmering's steeple clock and the game had finally been postponed--to ensure that somebody might witness her getting into the car. Just in case, she dropped her field hockey stick into the gutter where it would be recovered and remarked upon by journalists and police, family, friends, teachers. She grasped the door handle and experienced a fleeting sensation of fear, an electrical charge that caused her fingers to retract into a self-protective claw. She imagined, because she was dramatically inclined, that the handle was burning hot; that her body was on fire; that she was immolating from within and her cells were being set individually ablaze because she, too, fancied herself to be a disappearing woman, her eyes a blank white stare.

West Salem

NOVEMBER 8, 1999

Once again, Mary Veal found herself the aggressively unnoticed guest at a tense social gathering at the house on Rumney Marsh. Once again, she wore a hand-me-down wool dress that itched horribly and smelled like a closet; her father was nowhere to be seen; the punch bowl provided the conversational focal point. Once again, her sisters were snubbing her. Once again, the hors d'oeuvres were lame.

Mum's funeral notwithstanding, she reflected, it felt just like old times.

From behind her plaid wingback redoubt, she watched as her older sister, Regina, ruddy hair yanked flat by a headband and thinner than her usual thin, listlessly orbited the downstairs. Her younger sister, Gaby, hunched on the piano bench, wearing a tight navy pantsuit that made her look like a down-and-out real estate agent. Gaby picked vacantly at her paper plate of grapes and salmon mousse Triscuits. She appeared, Mary thought, in need of an awkward social encounter with an estranged family member.

A wary Gaby clocked Mary's approach with her green-brown Mum eyes.

"Nice suit," Mary offered.

"Mum's," Gaby said through a mouthful of grape.

"It fits you," Mary said. She fingered the empty candy dish atop the piano, its circumference encircled by a green ribbon.

This elicited no response from Gaby.

"Except for the pants. And the jacket."

"Hmmppphh," said Gaby.

"It fits nicely around the wrists," Mary said.

The two of them wordlessly observed the arriving guests clot into special-interest groups around the punch bowl: Mum's sister, Helen, and their handful of local cousins; Mum's historical society co-workers; Mum's Wellesley College Alumnae Association friends; Mum's former Semmering Academy PTA colleagues. The wake felt uncomfortably overseen from the mantel by Mum herself, her ashes stowed in a Laotian dung vase forced upon them by Aunt Helen and flanked by two florist arrangements of pussy willows and weedy-looking filler plants.

Regina completed one last enervated rotation and dropped onto the piano bench beside Gaby. She folded her legs and coiled her left foot around her right ankle, a holdover gesture from adolescence; she'd claimed once to Mary that this tourniquet pose helped to stave off weight gain, at least in the leg area, which seemed about as reasonable as believing in the slimming powers of the electric massage belt.

Mary remained determined to forge an emotional connection with her sisters.

"How about that sermon?" Mary said, referring to Reverend Whittemore's selection from the New Testament--For one believes he can eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables--offered, she suspected, as biblical proof that their mother's subsistence diet of white wine and pickles had been a more decisive element in her demise than the melanoma.

"He reads that sermon at every funeral," Regina said. "Once he called the dead person, who was a man, 'Beloved Phyllis.' "

Gaby yawned.

"Do you remember in junior choir how Reverend Whittemore smelled like embalming fluid?" Regina said. "The old perv was always hugging me after we sang 'Praise Him! Praise Him!' saying, 'How the heavens applaud you my dear!' "

"Blick," Gaby said through shards of Triscuit.

"At least Aunt Helen almost made it through her poem without crying," Mary said. She didn't mention Regina's poem, written specifically for Mum's funeral. The most truthful response she could muster, as she and Regina and Gaby waited for Dad to bring the car around after the service, had been: "It was so brave of you to read that."

"Or plugging her herbal grief tea," Regina said.

"I thought Healthy Acceptance filed for bankruptcy," Mary said.

"Dad bailed her out, which is why we have seventeen cases of grief tea in the attic," Regina said. "Where have you been? Oh right. You were out West."

"When Aunt Helen cries," Mary said, ignoring the dig, "I wonder how anyone could ever appear convincingly sad."

"Which I guess explains why you didn't even bother to try," Regina said. "Gaby, where did you get that awful suit?"

"Mum's closet," Gaby said. "Is grief tea supposed to make you feel grief or make you not feel it?"

"Not feel grief," Mary said dully. "I think."

"That's not Mum's suit," Regina said. "Mum hated navy."

Gaby turned her suit coat inside out to reveal a green ribbon tied to the dry clean only tag. Their father had donated the house's contents to the historical society for auctioning and an overly apologetic volunteer had come around the previous day to tag the desirable items with ribbons. To be safe, the volunteer had overdone the job, or maybe, given she knew the wake was to be held at 34 Rumney Marsh, she saw herself doubling as decorator for the occasion. All four legs of the couch were adorned with ribbon, both andirons, both candlesticks, the lamp bases and the lamp shades and even the spare box of light bulbs, every individual kitchen item (eggbeater, potato masher, potato peeler, wine key), the collection of circa 1979-1983 Association of Descendants of the American Witch newsletters stacked beneath the rattan coffee table.

"So," Regina said, "speaking of not feeling grief, has anyone checked on Dad recently?"

"I'll go," Mary offered, relieved to escape the hostile tedium of her sisters' company; it depressed her too intensely and made her feel abrased by an all-body loneliness. In the three years since Mary and Regina and Gaby had been together in the same room, nothing had changed. She tried to rekindle the heart-wrenching warmth she'd imagined feeling toward her sisters as she walked down the airplane exit ramp to their teary reunion, but instead found herself irked by Regina's self-centered prickliness and Gaby's wrathful apathy. Despite how she'd envisioned this homecoming--horribly sad, yes, stilted, yes, but glinting with the potential for everyone to recast themselves as expansively generous and affectionate people--the remaining Veal family members, herself included, hadn't really shown themselves capable of improvement.

Mary passed through the living room, her mobile presence registered only by the way the guests she neared strived to move actively ignore her. She split the curtains behind the punch table expecting to see her father, Clyde Veal, still stationed on the front lawn directing parking, but he'd abandoned his post; since his departure, guests had parked along the north side of the street, ignoring the fliers he'd taped to the streetlamps in order to avoid the territorial wrath of the neighbor Mum had christened Ye Olde Bastard. Eventually she found him, fingers pittering against his key-filled pockets, waiting in the foyer to receive coats, even though people had long since stopped arriving.

Dad, she started to say. But the two of them had pointedly arranged never to be alone without a chaperone since her arrival so, in fairness to him, she chose to "check on Dad" from behind the broken grandfather clock. He opened the door and peered down the street as if expecting a calvacade of mourners to turn onto Rumney Marsh and invade the house in desperate need of a coat-check attendant. Her father hadn't invited any of his work acquaintances from St. Hugh's today, nor any of his golf cronies from the public golf range, a nonselective, dress-code-free club overlooking a swamp that boasted, among its members, a gay couple and an acquitted child abuser. Her father maintained his connection with the local working-class community while respecting Mum's unspoken hope that these people never be invited to their house. So it was in deference to Mum, she assumed, that he'd failed to invite his friends. Or it was for some more complicated, self-defeating reason.

Mary knew without ever needing to be told: her father was a self-made lonely man.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Reading Group Guide

1. Does Mary’s subterfuge with Dr. Hammer imply a criticism of therapy in general?

2. Why does Mary plagiarize Dora’s story? Does she really lack imagination, as her mother believes? Or is there another reason she co-opts Dora’s story?

3. How would Mary’s experience in therapy have been different if Dr. Hammer were a woman? Would Roz Biedelman have been a better therapist for Mary?

4. How does the New England setting and the town’s proximity to the Salem witch trials complicate Mary’s “crime”?

5. What is the emotional legacy of Abigail Lake, and how does it differently affect Mary, her sisters, and her mother?

6. Is Dr. Hammer just trying to further his career, as everyone suggests? Is Mary his victim, or is he her victim?

7. Mary’s relationship, or non-relationship, with her mother, is a key element in the book. Is Paula Veal to blame for what happens to Mary? Should she have forgiven her daughter?

8. Has “the girl,” Mary, been abducted by the man, or is the man her hostage? Who, in the end, has victimized whom?

9. In the What Might Have Happened chapters, are we meant to believe that this IS what happened to Mary? Or is this Mary’s fantasy of what happened? Or is it possibly even Dr. Hammer’s version of what happened? How do the shifting points of view (from the girl’s to the man’s) suggest one interpretation over another?

10. Books are important to Mary, but especially those that she has never read. What is the function of these books? Does it matter that the reader never really knows what’s inside of those books either? Can books sometimes exude more power if they remain unread?

11. Are we meant to believe Mary’s reason for explaining why Paula Veal cut her daughters out of her will (except for the painting of Abigail Lake)? Did she forgive Mary? Does it matter one way or the other what she intended?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2007

    Good beginning, but then downhill!

    I read the first chapter online and it seemed great. After the first chapter it became a jumbled mess of reality and 'what might have happened.' Each chapter was told from a different perspective-Mary, the protagonist, her therapist and the narrator (who tells the reader the events of what might have happened to Mary). Frankly, I wanted to know what happened--I couldn't care less for what might have happened! While the plotline was phenomenal, the story was boring, boring, boring. My book club was also extremely disappointed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Not Enchanting...

    Although the premise sounded fascinating - abduction, mystery and deceit - it just didn't deliver. The sisters, although despicable, just grated on the nerves. The story was so disjointed and fragmented, I found myself counting - and recounting - the pages to the end. No uses for this unenchanting story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2009

    Interesting Premise but Difficult Characters

    Simply put, I had a very difficult time relating to the protagonist, Mary, or for that matter any of the other characters in this story. Everyone comes across as difficult, deceitful, and extremely self-absorbed. This includes both the male and female characters. I kept wanting to find someone who was honest and straightforward. The dialogue was downright biting most of the time. And I never got a good picture for why the mother was the way she was. At the same time, the story line of this novel propelled me along, making me want to understand Mary. It was also an interesting and original premise. I agree with another earlier reviewer--this is a good book for the right person.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2008

    It Speaks To Certain People

    I loved this book but it's only for a certain type of person, take a chance and read it you may find yourself in the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2007

    High expectations

    I picked up this one at the library because I had read her previous book. I had to start it over several times because I couldn't get into the main character or any of the supporting characters..not interesting. While the writing is very good the premise came across as boring. Again, the dialogue is the best part of the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2006

    For those in search of a Captivating story, for those in search of Brilliant story-telling

    I found this book via an especially dedicated 'New York Magazine' Fall Pick article in August, and became enthralled by its intriguing premise, ellicitng a news-story of '03 (or was it '04?), where a college girl feigned her own abduction. I found myself counting down the days from early August until its mid-October release. Never were so many mounting expectations (growing more so with each anticipatory day) fulfilled and surpassed by their promise when it comes to the literary rapture and lyrical voice that is 'The Uses of Enchantment.' The story is intoxicating. As a Freudian fiend and trauma-studies minor, I can say Julavits matches her inspiration and alights the genre to a new level while casting a shadow of doubt-and-suspect- thought on to her sources, beckoning the most avid- Dora-adherent to re-read Freud in a second-light (even if modern criticism hadn't so inclined them to do so before). As a a twenty-something female, I can say the yearning and sexual repression of the 'non-trauma' adolescent 'girl' experience, has never before been so quite throroughly fantasized, explained, and vicariously rebelled-against through reading this book. 'The Uses of Enchantment' is tell-tale in its directness, extraordinary in the interwoven storylines touching upon a gothic past revisited in a seemingly banal present, familiar in its frustration, curiosity, and gingerly-tread-line between danger and desire. In short, I love this book: great story, great structure, fantastic writing. I read it in one day.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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