The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

Maggie O'Farrell, Author . Harcourt $23 (245p) ISBN 978-0-15-101411-8

O'Farrell (After You'd Gone ) delivers an intricate, eloquent novel of family malice, longings and betrayal. Slim, stylish Iris Lockhart runs a dress shop in contemporary Edinburgh when she's not flirting with her stepbrother Alex or rendezvousing with her married attorney lover, Luke. Esme Lennox, meanwhile, is ready to be discharged from the soon-to-be-closed psychiatric hospital where she's been a patient (read: virtual prisoner) for 61 years. Iris becomes aware of Esme's existence when she's informed, to her disbelief, that she has been granted power of attorney over Esme by Kitty Lockhart, Iris's Alzheimer's-afflicted grandmother. It turns out Kitty and Esme are sisters, but Kitty kept quiet about Esme after she was hospitalized at age 16. Layer upon layer of Lockhart family secrets are laid bare—the truth behind Esme's institutionalization, why her existence was kept a secret, and a twist involving Iris's parents—as Iris mulls over what to do with her new charge, and Esme and Kitty reconnect. O'Farrell maintains a high level of tension throughout, and the conclusion is devastating. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 06/04/2007
Release date: 10/01/2007
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 245 pages - 978-0-15-603367-1
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