I'd heard great things about Maggie O'Farrell and I'm happy to say that they're all true. She's a wonderful writer. Her words linger with you and contain beautiful imagery and rhythm. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox revolves around three women: Iris, Esme, and Kitty.
Iris is a 30-something woman who owns a vintage shop. At the start of the story, she's contacted by a mental institution in regard to one of their patients, Iris's great aunt Esme. But Iris has never heard of Esme and her grandmother Kitty (Esme's sister), who suffers from Alzheimer's, isn't much help. Iris struggles to decide what to do with Esme, while at the same time struggling with her own life, especially regarding her relationship with her step-brother Alex.
Esme is a seventy-something woman who has lived in the mental institution since she was a teenager. In her sections of the story, we see her sad childhood in India, her estrangement from her sister Kitty, and the stories that led to her being institutionalized.
Kitty is older and suffers from Alzheimer's. Her sections are short and fragmented, cutting back and forth between thoughts (and rarely finishing one). Her parts read like a diary or a confession and always stay in the past.
All of the woman have stories worth telling and they weave together beautifully. My one (small) complaint would be that the ending was too fuzzy for my taste (I like to at least understand what's happened). But really, I loved it. Despite how terribly sad it was. I'm very excited to read some of O'Farrell's other work.
TITLE: The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
AUTHOR: Maggie O'Farrell
PUBLICATION DATE: 2006
VERDICT: 4/5 stars.