Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Book review: The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

So, I finally broke my streak of bad luck with books and finished a book in 3 days.  Whohoo!!

I should have known that I would love The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox.  It was one of Barnes & Noble's  recommended picks years ago, and I just always put off starting it.  Maybe it was the strange, magician's-assistant-y-type woman on the front cover.  But, you know, you can't judge a book by its cover.

(SDBBE girls - I'm not giving anything away.  You can read my thoughts - or skip them and get them in my awesome handwriting in a few months.)

It is the story of Iris and of Esme.  Esme is Iris' great aunt, and has been sequestered away in a mental institution for 61 years.  61 years! Apparently, back in the day, a father could institutionalize his wife, mother, daughter, what-have-you female for just about any reason.  She daydreams too much, or doesn't clean the way his mother did, or wants sex too much or not enough or whatever.  Yeah, that dad/husband/son could put away the woman and let her rot there. 

It makes me sick to think of it.

Beyond that, what I loved about this book is that it showed women and the choices they make.  We don't always have good reasons, and we don't always want to hurt others, but it happens anyway.  Sometimes I know I shouldn't do something, but I do it anyway.  Or don't do it, as it may be. A few months ago, an old friend's daughter had an event happen in her life that I was invited to.  I have let grudges that I have against this friend build up.  I decided to not go to the event just because of the grudges I had against her.  And yet another one of our friends went to the event.  She had every reason in the world to not go, and she still drove across the valley to attend.  The whole time I kept justifying myself with reasons that would have worked for my second friend so I would feel better about not going. (It didn't help, in case you were wondering.)

I don't really feel bad that I didn't go. I feel bad that I didn't go because of the justifications I used.  After reading Esme, I saw that part of myself mirrored in the choices that Iris and other characters made (not that I have made those exact choices, mind you.)  Without the benefit of the backwards/forwards omniscience that a novel gives us, I don't know how my choice will ultimately affect my friendship with my friend, the way I do with Esme.  I don't think that it changed my old friend's life that I wasn't there, but I'm sure it changed our friendship.  And it showed me a part of myself that I don't love.

So, if you like books about women and choices and the ways we torture ourselves and others around us, read this book.  This is a book that illustrates so perfectly why it is that I love books so much.  They give me a chance to learn about myself while simultaneously entertaining myself.  Who can lose in that situation, I ask?  Who.

Have you read this?  Did the cover freak anyone else out?  Thank heaven the paperback copy I just ordered from B&N is more agreeable.


Anonymous said...

I'm excited to read it!

Isabel said...

I couldn't bring myself to read your thoughts. But I saw you loved the book and that makes me excited to read it.