Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell

Iris, a young Scottish woman, is living a somewhat compromised and colorless life in Edinburgh, running a dress shop and in a relationship with a married man, when she receives news that she must now care for great-aunt Esme Lennox who has been hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital for 61 years – an aunt she didn’t even know existed! Now that’s a storyline that can make you snuggle down into a soft blanket and not want to surface until the mystery unravels!  Toss in a couple of other family twists, and you’ve got a page-turner.

Why was Esme committed to a mental institution when she was 16? Why is Iris just now finding out that her Alzheimer-afflicted (and pathologically cranky) grandmother, Kitty Lockhart, has a sister? What is Iris to do with Esme? What will Esme have to say about her life? What will happen when Esme and Kitty are reunited?

In the process of uncovering Esme’s story, Iris discovers much more than she could have imagined, and a heritage that brings new perspective to her life. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox reminded me of that Bible verse that goes something along the lines of, “The sins of the parents are visited upon the children.” 

In spite of the titillating storyline, I’m glad that I listened to this book rather than read it. I saw many reviews in which readers complained that the back-and-forth timeframe made the story difficult to follow and that the writing was not great. O'Farrell (pictured) is the author of a number of recognizable books, including, After You'd Gone," and The Hand That First Held Mine.

Although this book won’t make my list of “2011 Best Books” (stay tuned), it also won’t make the “worst of” list either. It was well worth the time.  Oh, and one more thing: When Esme and Kitty are reunited, what happens is, shall we say, chilling!

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