Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult is a novel where each chapter is told in a different point of view. The main character, Delia Hopkins grew up with her father, Andrew Hopkins; her mother was killed in a car accident. Her neighbors, Fitz and Eric, became her best friends, even well into adulthood. Delia, age 32, lives with her father, Eric, who is now her fiance, and their four year old daughter, Sophie. Delia does search and rescue with her dog Greta, Eric is a lawyer and Fitz writes for the Gazette, a local New Hampshire newspaper. As the book progresses, there are multiple flashbacks told by each prominant character about their childhoods. We learn that Fitz is in love with Delia and that Eric grew up with an alcohlic for a mother, among other things. Everything seems normal for Delia until one day, the cops show up at her house, and not for her help in a missing persons case. They arrest her father for kidnapping Bethany Matthews 28 years ago. We come to find out that Bethany Matthews is Delia herself. Her father kidnapped her when she was four years old.
Immediately her world falls apart. All the strange dreams she was having turn out to be her lost childhood memories, she cannot trust the man who raised her to be the woman she is today, although now she is not quite sure who she really is, and most importantly, her mother is alive. Delia asks Eric to be her father's lawyer and they all move to Arizona, where the kidnapping took place. Fitz's editor flys him to Arizona to cover the case, though Delia is not aware of this.
Everyone seems to have their share of problems in this book. Delia, Eric and Sophie move into a pink trailer next to a seemingly odd woman named Ruthann. Sophie becomes very close to Ruthann, and so does Delia. Eventually, Delia and Eric find out about Ruthann's cancer. She secretly refuses chemotherapy and eventually committs suicide. Eric also seems to be having a lot of trouble with Andrew's case as the details unfold. He seems to be losing Delia, too. He is even unware of the fact that Fitz is in love with her and Delia may have feelings for Fitz, as well. Delia searches for her mother and once she finds her, she isn't the mother she dreamt her up to be. Her mother, Elise, was an alcoholic, and that is why Andrew kidnapped Delia soon after their divorce. But Andrew's problems seem to be the heaviest. As he tells his story, we learn that life in prison is a horrible place to be, even for a man in his mid-sixties who wants nothing to do with anyone. He is constantly harassed by gangs and even stoops so low that he helps deal drugs. Andrew is in such bad shape that he changes his mind about wanting to be found guilty. He knows now that if he is found guilty and has to stay in prison, he will be murdered.
Vanishing Acts is a very fast-paced, intriguing novel. It deals with issues of the real world and finding one's true identity. Delia struggles with her identity: does the past really matter, or is it who she is now that counts the most? Will Andrew be found not guilty because he had a reasonable excuse for taking his daughter and running? What will happen with Fitz and Delia; Eric and Delia?
1) Fitz is maddly in love with Delia and he knows she is engaged. To make matters worse, all three of them have been best friends since their childhoods. If you loved someone deeply but you knew they were engaged, would you tell the one you love how you feel? Do you think it'd be the right thing to do, or are these sorts of things better left unsaid?
2) Ever since Delia was little, she believed her mother had passed away, until one day, she finds out this is not true. Would you be upset if your father withheld this information even if he had a reason to do so? How would you feel if you grew up without a mother, or a father, as some of us sadly do?
3) Andrew kidnapped his daughter in order to protect her from her alcoholic mother. If you were in Andrew's position (divorced and only saw your daughter on the weekends) would you do all that you could, even if it meant kidnapping your daughter because he could not go to the police, to save your son or daughter? Do you think he had the right to do something like that?