My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Vanishing Act is told as a type of fairy-tale: Minou, the young narrator, even mentions at the start that you may choose not to believe the story in these pages. Minou lives on a tiny island with Papa, who values philosophical thought above all else. Her Mama disappeared, and is presumed by everyone other than Minou to be dead. But Minou decides that, utilizing logical deduction, finding one of Mama’s shoes is not enough evidence to prove her death.
Minou tells us the story of how her parents met, and all about the other characters on the island: namely Priest, who enjoys origami and bakes pretzels, and Boxman – who used to be in the circus, and now makes boxes for magicians to use in their acts. No Name, Boxman’s dog, is their other companion.
Minou’s voice as narrator was enchanting and full of pathos. She recounts her own journey to read the works of the great philosophers, including Descartes (whom her Uncle assures her their family is descended from). She loves to knit, and has made scarves of various colours for everyone on the island, including No Name. I fell in love with her story from the very start, and loved watching how it unfolded.
The Vanishing Act isn’t plot-heavy, but rather relies on the keen observation of Minou to allow the reader to understand her and the important people in their lives. A sub-plot exists around the mystery of what happened to Mama, and as well when a dead boy unexpectedly turns up in the sea. But the real beauty of the book is the lovely way we become immersed in Minou’s world.
I read this because it was recommended to me as something “similar” to The Night Circus, which I am in love with. And Erin Morgenstern did write the book blurb on the front. The two books really aren’t comparable in any way other than being wonderful stories that will stick with me for a long time. I would love to re-read this book, and highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys a thoughtful, lyrical story of loss and love.