It’s funny how a year ago when Picoult’s book, Change of Heart, was being released, the book blogging community was all abuzz. This year, with her new release, all is quiet–I couldn’t even tell you the name without looking it up. It seems that people either love Picoult’s work or strongly dislike it, although lately I’ve seen more negative reviews for Picoult’s work than any other author (emphasis on it seems). And I think that after reading my 8th book by Picoult, some of my own excitement has died down.
Delia Hopkins does search and rescue for a living. She and her bloodhound, Greta, find children who have gone missing, teenagers who have runaway, and even sometimes a child who has been snatched by someone else. What Delia doesn’t know is that when she was four years old her own father kidnapped her and took her across the country to start a new life. It isn’t until her father, Andrew, is arrested that Delia’s life and the delicately spun web of lies she has lived for 28 years begins to unravel.
Like many of her other novels, Vanishing Acts is told from the points of view of several of the main characters–Delia, her father Andrew, her fiance Eric, and her best friend Fitz. Through these four narratives, we are taken on a ride that will make you question your own memories and perceptions of reality, make you question what is right and what is wrong, and the ethics of doing what is best when is it clearly against the law. I love that Picoult uses the different perspectives and voices to tell her stories, especially as we then get to learn things we wouldn’t be privy to know otherwise–what it is like for Andrew in prison, Delia’s predicament on whether to support her father or to make amends with her mother, Eric’s battle with alcoholism, Fitz’s unrequited love for Delia. Complicated storylines that are best told from each party.
The bottomline: I liked Vanishing Acts and I liked it almost as much as I expected to like it. It is one of the better ones that I’ve read (although not my favorite). I’m sure you’ve heard people say Picoult is a formulaic writer, and she absolutely is. Is that a bad thing? As long as the formula is working, I don’t think it is a bad thing. I tend to stay away from formula writers, but Picoult’s formula has worked well for me. It keeps me on the edge of my seat and turning the pages.
So why has some of the excitement worn away? One of the things that I love about Picoult is that she is continually blurring the lines between what is right and wrong. Kind of like that old dilemma of whether or not it is OK to steal bread to feed your starving family. After 8 books, I guess I get the point. Life isn’t black and white, but rather a funny shade of gray. It wasn’t that this book didn’t do as good of a job of looking at ethical decisions, its just that it didn’t feel novel anymore. I knew what was coming–and I suspect that as I continue to read her books the formula will still be gripping, but a little more loosely. A little more tired.