Saturday, December 18, 2010

Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult

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?


Questions
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?

8 comments:

Natalie S Mods 5-6 said...

1)I would have to tell the person I loved how I truly felt. I could not live the rest of my life thinking, what if I told them. Life is about risk taking. If you live your life in your comfort zone, you will never be satisfied with yourself. It may be a risky thing to do but it has to be done. A person must take care of themselves.
3) If it came down to it, I think I would kidnap her. I would only do it as an extreme last resort though. If I had tried everything else and the situation did not change, then I would kidnap my child to save them. I do not necessarily think that he had the right to do that but since the law was not doing its job very well, Andrew did what he had to do.

Courtney R 5-6 said...

1) I agree with you Nat. I think that it may be hard to do though. I feel as though it could mess with the person's head, but if they're truly in love with that other person, they'd just appreciate being told.
3) Im not sure what I would do, especially if it came down to losing my child because of jail time. Not every person would make it 28 years without being found out. I agree with you though because if it did come down to it, I would have to do something to protect my child from any kind of harm.

Sydney C.13-14 said...

1. I think it is only fair for Delia to know Fitz's true feelings about her before the wedding. It is awkward because they have all three been friends for so long, but everything that needs to be said should be said as soon as possible. Things get much more complicated and dramatic after Eric and Delia have actually tied the knot and signed the paperwork.

2. I feel that Delia's father was only protecting her from the pain her mother would cause her, and Delia was probably better off growing up without Elise, however it seems like Andrew should have given Delia the choice of meeting her mother later in her life, possibly revealing the information to her when she turned 18. I may have gotten upset by hearing the news, but I would rather hear it from my father than a policeman knocking down my front door.

3. I think that Andrew had good intentions by protecting his child, but I feel like a name change and moving states is an irrational way to handle this situation. There are other ways of proving his ex wife a neglecting mother without running away.

Courtney R 5-6 said...

1) I agree with you as well Syd. I don't want to say it should be an "I need to get this over with" thing, but i think one would feel much better about theirself if they told their true feelings.
2) I'm not entirely sure how I would handle this information if my father had sprung it upon me as he did with Delia. It would have been very complicated for Andrew to tell his daughter, even after she turned 18, and not just for the legal reasons.
3) I think that this depends on the situation. The kidnapping took place in the 70's and Andrew had been arrested for beating up a man who Elise had an affair with while they were married. In this time period, it would have been very difficult for Andrew to win more custody of his daughter; most judges were biased towards the mother, regardless of her conditions. This is especially true because of Andrew's prior arrest. I think that it all depends on the situation. In the book, Elise had put Delia in life threatening situations and even forgot about her. If I were a parent, I'm not sure what I would have done.

Kaitlyn H 11-12 said...

1). I'm not sure if it would be the right thing to do telling someone that's engaged how you feel, but I think it would be important to do in order to at least clear your conscience before they get married.
3). I think Andrew had the right to kidnap his own daughter because it is a parents job to protect their children.

Hayley D 11/12 said...

1. I think that it is better for someone to say what they truly feel, but I feel like Fitz waited too long. If he mentioned this while they were dating or something it would be acceptable. But now that Delia is engaged things become complicated. I don't really know what would be best in this situation.
2. I would be extremely mad if someone that I loved and trusted kept vital information from me for so long. I think that he should have told her that she at least had a mother and then explained later in her life why he chose to take her away for her own safety.
3. In a way I feel like he had a right to do that because he is the father, but I feel like kidnapping is a little too extreme. He could have had someone close to the family prove to the police that she was being neglected(due to the fact that he couldn't personally go to the police for help). I understand that he was trying to protect his daughter but I think there were better options than kidnapping her and changing her name.

Courtney R 5-6 said...

I agree that Fitz did wait too long. I don't want to say anything about the story, but that could mess up Delia and Eric's relationship or do nothing. It wasn't fair to Delia.

I'm not sure how I would feel about that. I think that the trust I had with that person would be violated, but at the same time, all that that person was trying to do was protect me. It would be a hard situation to be in.

I most definitely agree that Andrew could have tried to get someone else to help in that situation.

Mrs. Sherwood said...

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