Imagine you had the power to make streetlights dim when you walked beneath them and could probe the innermost secrets of the human mind. This is what life is like for Julia Severn, a young psychic whose mother committed suicide when she was just an infant. Though Juliaâ€™s powers are impressive, all attempts to contact her mother beyond the grave have been unsuccessful. Instead, Julia latches onto her mentor, Madame Ackerman, as an interim mother. Alas, Madame Ackermanâ€™s powers are waning and in a fit of jealousy, she metes out a devastating psychic punishment that cripples Julia and sends her on the run. Despite her resolve to lead a normal life, Julia finds herself fighting to regain her health and her mystical gifts so that she can assist in the search for a provocative and elusive artist who just happens to have known her mother. What results is a sinister game of cosmic hide-and-seek in which Julia will be forced to confront her most deadly and dogged pursuer: her own grief.
Heidi Julavits' fourth novel is bold and brazen, but it is also one hell of a headtrip.
In case the above synopsis does not make it abundantly clear, Heidi Julavitsâ€™ fourth novel, The Vanishers, is bold and brazen, but it is also one hell of a headtrip. Perhaps the best way to describe it is to liken it to the mind-bending movies of David Lynch, for this is truly a puzzle wrapped in pages. The plot is serpentine and surreal, facts are fluid and nothing is out of bounds; one must be on perpetual guard, as not even Julia can be trusted in this tale where nothing is as it seems.
Some readers will certainly balk at the unconventional narrative leaps that Julavits asks them to take, but to do so would be a mistake. More than a metaphysical mystery, at its core The Vanishers is a stunningly candid examination of the dark side of grief, female rivalries and the critical bond between mothers and daughters. Countless books have already been written on these topics, but by straddling the line between the otherworldly and harsh reality, Julavits manages to take mainstream notions and transform them into something truly unique.Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.
Madame Ackermann, who heads up an elite school for psychics, refuses to cede power to talented student Julie Severn and eventually cripples her with a fierce psychic attack. Julie returns to the humdrum world but is soon asked to help find a missing person--an artist with ties to Julie's mother, who committed suicide when Julie was an enfant. Sounds like another layered, ambitious novel from Julavits. Attractive to your not-average reader.[Page 56]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Readers who seek out challenging, multilayered novels will enjoy tackling Julavits's (The Uses of Enchantment) latest, which blends psychology and the paranormal with a dose of satire. Julia Severn enrolls at The Workshop, an exclusive graduate school for psychics, intent on honing her talents to make contact with her dead mother. Instead, she angers Madame Ackermann, who plagues her with a psychic attack that causes mysterious maladies and terrible visions of her mother's suicide. Sent to an Austrian spa in an attempt to "vanish" from her tormentor and regain the energy needed to "regress" through time to track down an elusive feminist pornographic filmmaker, Julia stumbles through consciousness and past lives. Julavits throws in surprising, original descriptions (one character looks "so convalescent aprĂ¨s-ski" while another has "eyes starfished by mascara"). VERDICT This novel is reminiscent of Arthur Phillips's The Egyptologist: clever, humorous, with supernatural elements. While one can easily get confused about what is real and what is imagined, readers who surrender to the narrative may be rewarded with rich insights about losing a parent. [See Prepub Alert, 9/11/11.]--Christine Perkins, Bellingham P.L., WA[Page 57]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
A young student surpasses her troubled mentor, unleashing much wrath, in Julavits's wry, witty new novel (after The Uses of Enchantment). Julia Severn is a mediocre student at New Hampshire's Institute of Integrated Parapsychology, which is no Hogwarts. Frauds mix with the rare mystic, and students attempt--mostly in vain--to telepathically petrify hunks of pork. Enigmatic psychic diva Madame Ackermann handpicks Julia to be her stenographer, spreading jealousy until Madame feels threatened by Julia and morphs from harmless dingbat into sinister sociopath, ousting the student and debilitating her abilities. Relocated to New York, Julia finds work that is so odd it's often mistaken for performance art. As she begins to recover her abilities, she meets the mysterious Alwyn and finds her fortune deeply intertwined with a missing feminist French filmmaker who may hold insight about her dead mother. Julia comes to discover much about herself, the world, and her formidable former mentor. Packed with a revolving cast of faces, the story frequently switches into the past, especially at the outset, which can create confusion. But the overall effect is magical, and Julavits's often acerbic prose generates laughs despite the sad reality of Julia's life. Agent: Henry Dunow, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (Mar.)[Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC