Reviews for Vanishers

Booklist Reviews 2012 February #1
Julavits (The Uses of Enchantment, 2006) remains intrigued by the dramatic and comedic potential of the paranormal. In her brain-teasing fourth novel, Julia, a student at the Institute of Integrated Parapsychology, runs afoul of the famous Madame Ackermann. Once Ackermann realizes that her protégé succeeded where she failed in helping film historian Colophon Martin in his quest for information about the vanished French filmmaker Dominique Vargas, she exacts occult revenge, causing Julia to suffer from an unidentifiable, viciously debilitating malady. Alwyn, an angry and secretive rich girl working with Colophon, takes charge. Sequestered in bizarre, clandestine clinics, Julia finds that her psychic powers flash like heat lightning as she discovers that Vargas' story is entangled with that of her mother, who killed herself a month after Julia was born. In a convoluted plot stoked by diabolical humor and wry suspense, Julavits nearly squanders the novel's potential for deeper inquires. Instead, monstrous mother-figures and life-or-death power struggles evoke poignant questions about blame and forgiveness, inheritance and independence, memory and grief, and the obdurate mysteries of trust and love. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 December #2
A dour heroine tracks her psychic attacker in this dark latest from Julavits (The Uses of Enchantment, 2006, etc.). At New Hampshire's Institute of Integrated Parapsychology, Julia Severn is selected to record Madame Ackerman's words as she roams the cosmos. But Madame Ackerman's "regressions" are actually extended naps, so Julia begins inventing psychic revelations. Shortly after Julia envisions actual information sought by a client of Ackerman's, who is trying to find controversial filmmaker Dominique Varga, she becomes so ill she has to leave the Institute. A year later, mysterious new acquaintance Colophon Martin tells Julia she is the victim of psychic attacks by Madame Ackerman. Her only solution is to avail herself of the services of his company,, which helps people disappear from untenable lives. Colophon offers to help Julia because he's that former client of Madame Ackerman's; Julia's psychic abilities have been suppressed by her ailments, and he needs her to get well to find Varga, who disappeared in 1984. Julia's willing, because her anxious father has revealed that her mother, an artist who committed suicide when Julia was one month old, knew Varga, who "made your mother believe death could be an artistic act." The connections only grow more sinister (and far-fetched) after Julia checks in to the Goergen, a refuge in Vienna for vanishers of various sorts. What is the true identity of the fellow resident who claims to be "Hungarian skin care royalty?" Is Madame Ackerman behind the emails Julia keeps getting from "aconcernedfriend"? What happened in Room 13, 152 West 53rd Street, on October 24, 1984? Julia's ailments recede, and her psychic powers grow, but she still seems clueless as the story lumbers towards an extremely elaborate denouement culminating in a confrontation with Madame Ackerman. A searing final section very nearly redeems all this clutter, as Julia returns to New Hampshire to unmask the real culprit and to make the grimmest sort of settlement with her dead mother. Intelligent and ambitious, but also heavy-handed and alienating. Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2011 October #1

Madame Ackermann, who heads up an elite school for psychics, refuses to cede power to talented student Julie Severn and eventually cripples her with a fierce psychic attack. Julie returns to the humdrum world but is soon asked to help find a missing person--an artist with ties to Julie's mother, who committed suicide when Julie was an enfant. Sounds like another layered, ambitious novel from Julavits. Attractive to your not-average reader.

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Library Journal Reviews 2012 February #1

Readers who seek out challenging, multilayered novels will enjoy tackling Julavits's (The Uses of Enchantment) latest, which blends psychology and the paranormal with a dose of satire. Julia Severn enrolls at The Workshop, an exclusive graduate school for psychics, intent on honing her talents to make contact with her dead mother. Instead, she angers Madame Ackermann, who plagues her with a psychic attack that causes mysterious maladies and terrible visions of her mother's suicide. Sent to an Austrian spa in an attempt to "vanish" from her tormentor and regain the energy needed to "regress" through time to track down an elusive feminist pornographic filmmaker, Julia stumbles through consciousness and past lives. Julavits throws in surprising, original descriptions (one character looks "so convalescent après-ski" while another has "eyes starfished by mascara"). VERDICT This novel is reminiscent of Arthur Phillips's The Egyptologist: clever, humorous, with supernatural elements. While one can easily get confused about what is real and what is imagined, readers who surrender to the narrative may be rewarded with rich insights about losing a parent. [See Prepub Alert, 9/11/11.]--Christine Perkins, Bellingham P.L., WA

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 December #2

A young student surpasses her troubled mentor, unleashing much wrath, in Julavits's wry, witty new novel (after The Uses of Enchantment). Julia Severn is a mediocre student at New Hampshire's Institute of Integrated Parapsychology, which is no Hogwarts. Frauds mix with the rare mystic, and students attempt--mostly in vain--to telepathically petrify hunks of pork. Enigmatic psychic diva Madame Ackermann handpicks Julia to be her stenographer, spreading jealousy until Madame feels threatened by Julia and morphs from harmless dingbat into sinister sociopath, ousting the student and debilitating her abilities. Relocated to New York, Julia finds work that is so odd it's often mistaken for performance art. As she begins to recover her abilities, she meets the mysterious Alwyn and finds her fortune deeply intertwined with a missing feminist French filmmaker who may hold insight about her dead mother. Julia comes to discover much about herself, the world, and her formidable former mentor. Packed with a revolving cast of faces, the story frequently switches into the past, especially at the outset, which can create confusion. But the overall effect is magical, and Julavits's often acerbic prose generates laughs despite the sad reality of Julia's life. Agent: Henry Dunow, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (Mar.)

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