Jodi Picoult,
Vanishing Acts
(Hodder, 2005)

Jodi Picoult may be unjustly passed over by the so-called literary critics, but she sure knows how to grab the attention of the true reader. She has an uncanny knack of choosing a subject that will hit the headlines a few weeks after her book appears or one that resonates with recent news reports.

In Vanishing Acts, she takes a protagonist whose life as an adult has been a lie. Imagine finding on the eve of your wedding that the father you doted upon is accused of snatching you from your mother two decades earlier and has led you to believe her dead. How would you react? Ironically, Delia's job is to find missing persons, and from the outset she is a fully rounded character who draws our undivided attention.

Picoult brings the reader through all the emotions associated with such trauma with a sure hand on the tiller. She steers close to melodrama but always pulls back quickly enough to avoid losing the reader. Her research ensures there are no holes in the plot and gives the reader a sense of accomplishment that can make fiction every bit as educational as a factual book.

As in all her novels, we are given food for thought and we are not given easy answers to the dilemmas of her characters. We must make up our own minds on the philosophical questions posed by the plot. Who is right? Who is wrong? Can there be two, three or more sides to an argument, and can all be valid?

One word of caution about picking up a Picoult book -- have some time to spare and ideally have someone to discuss the subject with. Sometimes male readers may shy away from books like this thinking them to be more aimed at the ladies. Men, if you do, you will miss out on too much great writing -- don't leave it all to the girls.

review by
Nicky Rossiter

16 August 2008

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