Delia Hopkins was six years old when her father allowed her to be his assistant in the amateur magic act he performed at the local senior center's annual Christmas pageant. "I learned a lot that night," recalls Delia, who is now 32, at the start of Picoult's absorbing new novel (her 12th, after My Sister's Keeper). "That people don't vanish into thin air...." She has come to know this even better as an adult: she makes her living finding missing people with her own search-and-rescue bloodhound. As she prepares for her wedding, however, Delia has a flash of memory that is so vivid yet so wildly out-of-place among the other memories from her idyllic New Hampshire upbringing that she describes it to a childhood friend, who happens to be a reporter. Soon, her whole world and the world of the widowed father she adores is turned upside down. Her marriage to her toddler's father, a loving but still struggling recovering alcoholic, is put on hold as she is forced to conduct a search-and-rescue mission on her own past and identity. It will cut to the heart of what she holds to be true and good. As in previous novels, Picoult creates compelling, three-dimensional characters who tell a story in alternating voices about what it might mean to be a good parent and a good person, to be true to ourselves and those we love. Picoult weaves together plot and characterization in a landscape that is fleshed out in rich, journalistic detail, so that readers will come away with intriguing questions rather than pat answers. Author tour. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Well-oiled Picoult sets her latest expertly devised search-and-rescue tale in rural New Hampshire, where a kidnapping case is uncovered 28 years too late. As usual, Picoult (My Sister's Keeper, 2004, etc.) spins a terrifically suspenseful tale by developing just the right human-interest elements to make a workable story. Single mom Delia Hopkins works with the local Wexton police and a bloodhound named Greta to find lost children. Delia's close relationship with her divorced, 60-ish father, Andrew, who runs a senior-citizens' home, grows strained when he's suddenly arrested on kidnapping charges. The victim is Delia herself, named Bethany Matthews before her father fled with her from a drunken Mexican mother in Arizona. For 28 of her 32 years, Delia has believed her mother was dead. With Andrew extradited to Phoenix, the strange history of the case unravels, complicated by the choice of Delia's fiance, Eric (father of daughter Sophie), as Andrew's lawyer and the assignment of her childhood buddy Fitz to cover the case for his newspaper. Picoult is a thorough, perceptive writer who deliberately presents alternating viewpoints, so that the truth seems constantly to be shifting. When Delia finally meets the attractive, remarried Elise Vasquez, she can't quite vilify a woman who has been sober for many years and works as a curandera (healer). Her father's story is both suspect and understandable, especially in light of his horrific treatment in prison, caught up in the violence of rival gangs. The magnetic Eric is a recovering alcoholic who falls off the wagon when stressed, while dependable, silent lover Fitz waits in the wings for his chance. Meanwhile, Delia and Sophie make a fascinatingdigression into the mythical world of the local Hopi tribe. At times, Picoult goes over the top, allowing Sophie to get lost so that Greta can find her and, at the eleventh hour, inserting into the trial the possibility of Delia's sexual abuse . An experienced novelist takes her sweet time to rich rewards: overall, an affecting saga, nicely handled. Author tour. Agent: Laura Gross
From the Publisher
"[R]ichly textured and engaging."
The Boston Globe
"Picoult is a solid, lively storyteller."
The New York Times
"What is it about a Jodi Picoult novel that wraps the reader tighter than a spider's silk in the...intricacies of story? Never more gripping is the master plotter than in this, the story of Delia Hopkins."
Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean
"Picoult creates compelling...characters...in a landscape that is fleshed out in rich, journalistic detail, so that readers will come away with intriguing questions."
Read an Excerpt
By Jodi Picoult
Atria Copyright © 2005 Jodi Picoult
All right reserved.
Prologue I was six years old the first time I disappeared.
My father was working on a magic act for the annual Christmas show at the senior center, and his assistant, the receptionist who had a real gold tooth and false eyelashes as thick as spiders, got the flu. I was fully prepared to beg my father to be part of the act, but he asked, as if I were the one who would be doing him a favor.
Like I said, I was six, and I still believed that my father truly could pull coins out of my ear and find a bouquet of flowers in the folds of Mrs. Kleban's chenille housecoat and make Mr. van Looen's false teeth disappear. He did these little tricks all the time for the elderly folks who came to play bingo or do chair aerobics or watch old black-and-white movies with soundtracks that crackled like flame. I knew some parts of the act were fake - his fiddlehead mustache, for example, and the quarter with two heads - but I was one hundred percent sure that his magic wand had the ability to transport me into some limbo zone, until he saw fit to call me back.
On the night of the Christmas show, the residents of three different assisted-living communities in our town braved the cold and the snow to be bused to the senior center. They sat in a semicircle watching my father while I waited backstage. When he announced me - the Amazing Cordelia! - I stepped out wearing the sequined leotard I usually kept in my dress-up bin.
I learned a lot that night. For example, that part of being the magician's assistant means coming face-to-face with illusion. That invisibility is really just knotting your body in a certain way and letting the black curtain fall over you. That people don't vanish into thin air; that when you can't find someone, it's because you've been misdirected to look elsewhere.
Excerpted from Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult Copyright © 2005 by Jodi Picoult. Excerpted by permission.
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