22 June 2012
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox is one of the best books I have ever read. Maggie O'Farrell gives us the story from three points of view: Iris, in the present, as she meets the great-aunt she never knew she had; Esme, in the past and in the present, who has been locked away in an "institution" for more than sixty years; and Kitty, the grandma with Alzheimer's, whose story is done in stream-of-consciousness. Kitty always said she was an only child, but Esme is obviously her sister, and Iris feels obligated to care for her great-aunt. The institution is closing, so all the patients are labeled as harmless to clear the institution of responsibility. Esme is clearly damaged, but is it because she's insane? And if she's insane, was she before? Or is she now, only because of how she was treated?
The family secrets of Esme and Kitty come to the surface as Iris cares for and bonds with Esme. it's full of hurt, pain, and the feeling of not belonging. iris's own family secrets are revealed, and she is forced to make hard decisions. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox is an intense read that I couldn't put down until I figured out the secrets. The ending is somewhat rushed and vaguely written, but it still packs and punch. This great read shows that even when problems are resolved, that doesn't mean there's a happy ending. Actions have long consequences. I really enjoyed this novel and highly recommend it.