Vanishing Acts

Vanishing Acts

by Jodi Picoult

Paperback

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780594888697
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Publication date: 11/15/2005
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 1,456
Product dimensions: 5.32(w) x 8.22(h) x 1.18(d)

About the Author

Jodi Picoult received an AB in creative writing from Princeton and a master’s degree in education from Harvard. The recipient of the 2003 New England Book Award for her entire body of work, she is the author of twenty-six novels, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers House Rules, Handle With Care, Change of Heart, and My Sister’s Keeper, for which she received the American Library Association’s Margaret Alexander Edwards Award. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children. Visit her website at JodiPicoult.com.

Hometown:

Hanover, New Hampshire

Date of Birth:

May 19, 1966

Place of Birth:

Nesconset, Long Island, NY

Education:

A.B. in Creative Writing, Princeton University; M.A. in Education, Harvard University

Read an Excerpt

Vanishing Acts


By Jodi Picoult

Atria

Copyright © 2005 Jodi Picoult
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-7434-5454-5


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.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult Copyright © 2005 by Jodi Picoult. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

VANISHING ACTS
Jodi Picoult
Questions & Topics for Discussion
1. When she learns she was kidnapped as a child, Delia's choice of profession takes on a new significance. What motivated Delia to pursue a career in search-and-rescue? Does she view it differently once she knows about her past?
2. Delia says that as children she, Fitz, and Eric each had their roles: "Fitz was the dreamer; I was the practical tactician. Eric, on the other hand, was the front man: the one who could charm adults or other kids with equal ease." Have they continued these roles into adulthood? How so? Is each one comfortable in his or her role, or is there a longing to be something different?
3. In one instance Eric muses that "there are people in this world who have done worse things than Andrew Hopkins." What is your opinion of what Andrew did—taking Delia away from her mother and creating a new life for the two of them? From a legal standpoint, is he guilty of a crime? How about from a moral standpoint?
4. Andrew himself says, "Does it really matter why I did it? By now, you've already formed your impression. You believe that an act committed a lifetime ago defines a man, or you believe that a person's past has nothing to do with his future." A person cannot change his or her past actions, but can they make up for the hurt they've caused by helping others? Does the good that Andrew has done for the town of Wexton and for the senior citizens in his care—not to mention the happy childhood he gave Delia—make up for or excuse his taking his daughter? What do you make of Elise's remark to Andrew that Delia "turned out absolutely perfect"?
5. Eric believes that he does not have "the experience or the wits or the confidence" to represent Andrew. Why then does he agree to take on the case? Why does he continue to act as Andrew's attorney even when it causes tension between him and Delia?
6. In one instance Delia says to Fitz about meeting her mother for the first time, "I want this to be perfect. I want her to be perfect. But what if she's not? What if I'm not?" How does the reality measure up when she finally meets her mother? What kind of understanding do Delia and Elise come to? Why does Elise give Delia the "spell"—is it to help Andrew or her daughter?
7. Delia believes "it takes two people to make a lie work: the person who tells it, and the one who believes it." How do the characters in the novel, including Delia herself, prove this to be true?
8. During the trial, Eric tells the court he is an alcoholic. What does the exchange between Eric and Delia while he is questioning her on the witness stand reveal about their relationship? Do they view each other differently after this exchange? As two people who love alcoholics, how does Delia's treatment of Eric differ from Andrew's treatment of Elise? Whose actions and reactions, given their partner's disease, do you support?
9. Eric says to Andrew, "Everyone deserves a second chance." How does the idea of second chances play out in Vanishing Acts? Are there any characters who deserve a second chance and don't get one? And, conversely - are there any characters who do get a second chance - and squander it?
10. Elise tells Delia, "If you had grown up with me, this is one of the things I would have tried to teach you: marry a man who loves you more than you love him. Because I have done both now, and when it is the other way around, there is no spell in the world that can even out the balance." Discuss this in terms of Delia's relationships with both Eric and Fitz. Which man do you think Delia should be with, and why?
11. Both Delia and Sophie quickly develop a close relationship with Ruthann. When Ruthann commits suicide, Delia is there to witness it. Why does she not try to stop Ruthann? What does Delia come to realize about herself from this experience?
12. Many of the chapters told from Andrew's point of view occur while he is in prison, "where everyone reinvents himself." What do these scenes, which depict in graphic detail the harsh realities of life behind bars, reveal about Andrew? What do they add to the overall storyline?
13. Right versus wrong is a dominant theme in Vanishing Acts—whether Andrew was right or wrong to kidnap Delia, whether Eric is right or wrong to hide his continued drinking from Delia, whether Delia is right or wrong not to stop Ruthann. How do the multiple perspectives in the story blur these lines and show how two people can view the same situation completely different? Were there any instances where you changed your mind about something in the story after reading a different character's viewpoint?
14. Fitz tells Delia, "I think you're angry at yourself, for not being smart enough to figure this out all on your own...If you don't want someone to change your life for you again, Dee, you've got to change it yourself." How do Fitz's words make Delia see her circumstances differently?
15. Ruthann introduces Delia to the Hopi creation myth, which suggests that humans have outgrown the world four times already, and are about to inhabit a fifth. Do most people outgrow their origins? Is reinvention part of the human experience? How do each of the characters' actions support or disprove this?
16. At one point, we learn that Fitz has not been writing about Andrew's trial, but about Delia. In fact, when he reads the first few pages to her, we can recognize them as the first few pages of this book. How does this affect the story you read? Is Fitz a reliable narrator?
17. Much is made of the nature of memory - whether it is stored physically, whether it can be conjured at will, whether it can be organically triggered or planted. Ultimately, do you believe Delia's recovered memories at the end of the book? Why or why not?
18. How are each of the main characters—Delia, Fitz, Eric, Andrew, and Elise—most changed by the events that take place? Where do you envision the characters five years from now?

Introduction

VANISHING ACTS

Jodi Picoult

Questions & Topics for Discussion

1. When she learns she was kidnapped as a child, Delia's choice of profession takes on a new significance. What motivated Delia to pursue a career in search-and-rescue? Does she view it differently once she knows about her past?

2. Delia says that as children she, Fitz, and Eric each had their roles: "Fitz was the dreamer; I was the practical tactician. Eric, on the other hand, was the front man: the one who could charm adults or other kids with equal ease." Have they continued these roles into adulthood? How so? Is each one comfortable in his or her role, or is there a longing to be something different?

3. In one instance Eric muses that "there are people in this world who have done worse things than Andrew Hopkins." What is your opinion of what Andrew did—taking Delia away from her mother and creating a new life for the two of them? From a legal standpoint, is he guilty of a crime? How about from a moral standpoint?

4. Andrew himself says, "Does it really matter why I did it? By now, you've already formed your impression. You believe that an act committed a lifetime ago defines a man, or you believe that a person's past has nothing to do with his future." A person cannot change his or her past actions, but can they make up for the hurt they've caused by helping others? Does the good that Andrew has done for the town of Wexton and for the senior citizens in his care—not to mention the happy childhood he gave Delia—make up for or excuse his taking his daughter? What do you make of Elise's remark to Andrew that Delia "turned out absolutely perfect"?

5. Eric believes thathe does not have "the experience or the wits or the confidence" to represent Andrew. Why then does he agree to take on the case? Why does he continue to act as Andrew's attorney even when it causes tension between him and Delia?

6. In one instance Delia says to Fitz about meeting her mother for the first time, "I want this to be perfect. I want her to be perfect. But what if she's not? What if I'm not?" How does the reality measure up when she finally meets her mother? What kind of understanding do Delia and Elise come to? Why does Elise give Delia the "spell"—is it to help Andrew or her daughter?

7. Delia believes "it takes two people to make a lie work: the person who tells it, and the one who believes it." How do the characters in the novel, including Delia herself, prove this to be true?

8. During the trial, Eric tells the court he is an alcoholic. What does the exchange between Eric and Delia while he is questioning her on the witness stand reveal about their relationship? Do they view each other differently after this exchange? As two people who love alcoholics, how does Delia's treatment of Eric differ from Andrew's treatment of Elise? Whose actions and reactions, given their partner's disease, do you support?

9. Eric says to Andrew, "Everyone deserves a second chance." How does the idea of second chances play out in Vanishing Acts? Are there any characters who deserve a second chance and don't get one? And, conversely - are there any characters who do get a second chance - and squander it?

10. Elise tells Delia, "If you had grown up with me, this is one of the things I would have tried to teach you: marry a man who loves you more than you love him. Because I have done both now, and when it is the other way around, there is no spell in the world that can even out the balance." Discuss this in terms of Delia's relationships with both Eric and Fitz. Which man do you think Delia should be with, and why?

11. Both Delia and Sophie quickly develop a close relationship with Ruthann. When Ruthann commits suicide, Delia is there to witness it. Why does she not try to stop Ruthann? What does Delia come to realize about herself from this experience?

12. Many of the chapters told from Andrew's point of view occur while he is in prison, "where everyone reinvents himself." What do these scenes, which depict in graphic detail the harsh realities of life behind bars, reveal about Andrew? What do they add to the overall storyline?

13. Right versus wrong is a dominant theme in Vanishing Acts—whether Andrew was right or wrong to kidnap Delia, whether Eric is right or wrong to hide his continued drinking from Delia, whether Delia is right or wrong not to stop Ruthann. How do the multiple perspectives in the story blur these lines and show how two people can view the same situation completely different? Were there any instances where you changed your mind about something in the story after reading a different character's viewpoint?

14. Fitz tells Delia, "I think you're angry at yourself, for not being smart enough to figure this out all on your own...If you don't want someone to change your life for you again, Dee, you've got to change it yourself." How do Fitz's words make Delia see her circumstances differently?

15. Ruthann introduces Delia to the Hopi creation myth, which suggests that humans have outgrown the world four times already, and are about to inhabit a fifth. Do most people outgrow their origins? Is reinvention part of the human experience? How do each of the characters' actions support or disprove this?

16. At one point, we learn that Fitz has not been writing about Andrew's trial, but about Delia. In fact, when he reads the first few pages to her, we can recognize them as the first few pages of this book. How does this affect the story you read? Is Fitz a reliable narrator?

17. Much is made of the nature of memory - whether it is stored physically, whether it can be conjured at will, whether it can be organically triggered or planted. Ultimately, do you believe Delia's recovered memories at the end of the book? Why or why not?

18. How are each of the main characters—Delia, Fitz, Eric, Andrew, and Elise—most changed by the events that take place? Where do you envision the characters five years from now?

Customer Reviews

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Vanishing Acts 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 371 reviews.
chanda stehlik More than 1 year ago
with the person 2 reviews down from me giving everything away, why bother buying the book? please dont do that. youre doing a real disservice to the author and to those of us who would have liked to find out what happened ourselves. a review tells what you thought of it, it doesnt retell the story and ruin it for others. thanks.
CeCeSG More than 1 year ago
Wow! This is one book that left me feeling so deeply, it's almost hard to put into words. Its the first time I've read a book by Ms. Picoult. I read it for my book club, and it's not one I would have normaly selected to read on my own... and I would have missed out. So many things stand out to me about this book. The presentation of the story from several of the character's perspective is nothing short of literary genius. It affords you the reader a fuller, broader, more well rounded story because it's all in the first person. The second thing that stands out for me was the amount of research that went into this story. Kudos to Ms. Picoult for a job exceptionally done. It added to the vibrant fabric of this well crafted story in such a natural way that it only enhanced the experience of reading it. And of course there was the story itself. I could talk about the story, the characters, the revelations. But honestly all I can think of is love. The love of a father for his daughter. The bond that such a love can create. It's about when your life is put on trial and under the microscope, what realizations, enlightenments do you come away with. If you haven't read a Ms. Picoult book start here. STATS: EBook pagers (Nook):359
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book by Jodi! Even though the other reviews say its unrealistic, i think its something you dont really expect. You should read it anyways! You be the judge of this book (:
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All of Ms. Picoult's book deal with really issuse, this book is no different. It is wonderfully written wirh strong clear voices. One of her finest books. Tugs at your heart.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was pretty good overall. Likable characters. Not sure what the point was of all the Native American references and stories. But good story overall.
Avid_Reader_TC More than 1 year ago
Can't stop reading . . . Incredible read!
mcfly2392 More than 1 year ago
This book was very good. Once again Jodi Piccoult takes what one would think of as a black and white issue and she leads you through all of the grey areas. I loved it!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I orginally bought this as a gift for my daughter, she loved it. She gave it to me afterwards. We both love Jodi Picoult and have read several of her books. Would highly recommend!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I liked this book and it's characters. I sometimes got sick of the narrators switching each chapter, but I liked the Dee and Andrew chapters a lot. I also felt as if there was too much history on the Native American ways. Overall I enjoyed the plot and would recommend this book. I have already started 'My Sister's Keeper' by Picoult.
Anonymous 27 days ago
See above
ladybug74 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I enjoyed this book. The recorded version had different voices to represent the different characters, so it was easy to keep track of who was telling the story. I did find the way the love triangle situation ended between Delia, Eric, and Fitz to be a bit unbelievable, but otherwise liked the way that this particular book ended.
OMBWarrior47 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I enjoyed this book. I don't really know what to say about it. It's another typical Jodi Picoult book, if you know what I mean. There are probably many other books out there that can be compared to it.
judithrs on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Vanishing Acts. Jodie Picoult. 2005. Delia has led a happy, happy life in New England even though she lost her mother when she was young and she occasionally has strange flashbacks. She has been friends forever with Eric who is the father of her young daughter and with Fitz who is also a soul mate. Her peace is shattered when her father is arrested for kidnapping her! Her father is moved to Arizona to stand trial and Delia follows with Eric who will be her father¿s lawyer and Fitz who is assigned to write an account of the trial for a local New Hampshire newspaper. As with all of Picoult¿s novels the plot unfolds by the points of view from the characters. In addition to Delia, her father and friends we also hear from Delia¿s mother. New developments arise in each chapter and I learned more that I ever wanted to know about jail culture and how to make ¿meth.¿I find her books compulsively readable¿I think I finished this in three days!
jepeters333 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
(BOCD) - Life could hardly be better for Delia Hopkins. She has a young daughter and a handsome fiance, and with her search-and--rescue bloodhound, she helps find missing persons. But as she plans for her wedding, she is haunted by inexplicable flashbacks to a time she cannot recall. Suddenly, Delia must confront devastating truths that could destroy her and everything she loves.
kissmeimgone on LibraryThing 5 months ago
An absolute wonderful page-turner that once you pick it up, you can't put down. I recommend this book to anyone.
Nikkiroo on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This book was suspenseful from the first pages to the end of the book. I love how the author writes in different fonts for the different characters. I felt like I was able to related to the situation and empathise with each of the characters. This was definitely another great read by Jodi Picoult.
zojo on LibraryThing 5 months ago
How disappointing! To be fair I didn't know what to expect, but this was badly written with a plot so thin I could spit through it! I only finished it because I started it, and it hardly required much thought.
tkanz79 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is my favorite to date of Jodi Picoult. The story line is captivating. There are so many twists and turns in the plot, that I finished the book in one sitting!
msmalnick on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Standard engrossing, tough-to-put-down fare from Jodi Picoult. One plot line (Hopi) doesn't add much, and of course it ends up in court, as Picoult loves her novels to do. But the main characters are interesting and endearing, the jail scenes harrowing. Not a "must read" but likely a "will enjoy."
nevacampbell on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Great story with lots of twists. Discovering who we are in spite of what we are named, who we think are paretns are, etc.
karima29 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Rich, thoughtful, thought-provoking, compassionate, insightful, engaging.... How far would you actually go to protect someone you love?This is the second book by Jodi Picoult that I have read so far. The first one, My Sister's Keeper, I enjoyed so much that I took a chance on this one, hoping that I would get the same magic. I wasn't disappointed at all. This book deals with such an unusual situation, just like My Sister's Keeper, and it confronts what we think we know and trust, and how much we would sacrifice for love. The central story is about a woman who discovers that her father had kidnapped her when she was four. It has so many threads though, asks so many questions and then answers them. It's about alcoholism, about second chances, about the courts of law, about prison gangs, about faith, about falling in love, ....Read it!
cindyloumn on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Love it. But I like all her books. I read it fairly quickly.
vfranklyn on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Bad writing! Annoying characters! Smarmy narrative! You can get all this and more with this book. I'm done with Jodi Picoult. She now officially annoys me.19 Minutes and My Sisters Keeper were both good, except for the ridiculous twist endings, but this one was lame. Actually, I take that back, the jail scenes were pretty good and I did actually read the entire book, and her love scenes are very tasteful.
amanda_anderson on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I enjoyed the multiple perspectives of this book. Each chapter is told from a different characters point of view which bothered me at first but gave insight throughout the novel.The story is of Delia, a mother who is engaged to her childhood friend. She grew up with her father and the two boys next door were, and to this day are her best friends. Her father kidnapped her when she was 4 years old and she learned her whole life is basically a lie.The story unfolds with details from her childhood she had forgotten and lessons learned of her current life and relationships.The fine line between right and wrong, good and evil is explored through several ways in this novel.The ongoing complexities of relationships between Delia and her friends, her father and soon, her mother who she thought was dead add to the story.The plot has several subplots including Ruthann's story, who could have been further developed, Andrew's time in jail, which was detailed and vivid, the love triangle between Fitz, Delia and Eric and of course the main plot - Delia's kidnapping 28 years prior.I just finished this book and I enjoyed it, however, it was hard for me to keep reading and it was def. not the page-turner I'd expected from Picoult.
Leeny182 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
So far I would have to say this one is my favorite of Jodi's. I really got sucked into it. I loved the story the whole way through. I was secretly wishing through whole thing that Fitz got the girl. Although I really wanted the family to stay intact. I felt for Andrew I knew from the beginning that he did it for the right reasons and was afraid for him when he was in jail. Definitely a good book and it made me cry.