Living on Nantucket, I can feel a bit cut off from the rest of the world, but the island in Jakobsen’s The Vanishing Act is so tiny it can’t be found on any map. And with only four residents, it’s more exclusive than Nantucket by far. Getting your supplies delivered by ferry boat and finding solace in literature and art is something I can relate to, but an island blanketed in snow and devoid of anyone my own age, certainly not.
The cover turns me off, I wish we got this one… What the deuce, right? This second one is awesome! The one we have comes across as a children’s book and doesn’t do this little gem justice. It was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize 2012 and has an enthusiastic review from Erin Morgenstern (author of The Night Circus and would-be best buddy, if she knew I existed)
The novel opens with Minou, the twelve-year-old protagonist, finding a dead boy that washed ashore. It’s been almost a year since Minou’s mother disappeared and she and her father bring the boy home and lay his body in the mother’s old room, window’s open to keep the body frozen. Both Minou and her father talk to the boy, projecting the hope and loss they feel from the mother’s disappearance onto him. The father considers himself a philosopher, a descendant of Descartes, approaching everything with a logical mind. Minou wants to be logical like her father but was encouraged by her mother to use her imagination. It’s a dichotomy that carries throughout the book.
Aside from the priest and Minou’s family, the only other person on the island is Boxman, a guy who left the mainland and his life in the circus for the quiet and seclusion of the island. He still makes boxes for other magicians to use in their disappearing woman act. He tells Minou about his one and only love, and how after disappearing and coming back she was struck with wanderlust and left the him and the circus life to travel the world. Is that what made Minou’s mother leave? Wanderlust?
This quietly haunting tale has an intimate cast you’ll find as tangible as the book in your hands. It’s a worthy and thought provoking read.