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Midwest Book Mom Presents: The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox - Book Review

Book Rating ★ ★ ★

I’d like to share a book review for those who like dark pasts and digging up family secrets where you can never look at the characters the same way again. Would you like to know one of the secrets about this novel? There are no chapters. None…and there’s a strange brother/sister relationship that doesn’t make sense. Too many secrets?

Maggie O’Farrell The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox was originally published in 2006 introduces the readers to Iris Lockhart, a young woman who owns a vintage clothing shop and has a commitment-phobia lifestyle. Iris receives a startling phone call asking if she can take in an older woman named Esme who’s the great-aunt that she never knew existed. Iris learns Esme is being released from an institution after being locked away over sixty years. Why would someone be locked away for over sixty years? Why didn’t Iris’s grandma never mention a sister? Really, Grandma! Frankly, it’s heartbreaking once the truth is revealed.

I read this story for book club read and it ended up being one of the most talked about books in the group. Esme Lennox is one of the most unique characters I’ve ever come across. Esme’s distinctive reactions to the world around her, her social interactions, and the way she mentally blocks unwanted thoughts and memories shows the reader there’s something very different about her. O’Farrell did well in creating a character readers can get a feel for. It was expressive when learning why she was institutionalized. Esme’s mind is haunting, flowing in and out of different time frames within the story. There are scenes where Esme is creating her own story, but there is a trick. I had to seriously focus on who’s talking and where the setting is because as I said previously… there are no chapters

…sometimes no breaks…

I did like O’Farrell’s descriptive writing and character development but for a short novel it took a good deal of concentration to read. There were several disorienting moments where I didn’t know who was talking or where the characters were. Perhaps I am your typical novel reader who needs chapters, spaces, and dialog direction…and you’re right or I’m a lost dog looking for bone. I was attracted to the plot because it had me looking deeper into women’s institutionalization between 1850-1900. This is one of the highlights I liked about this book is because it provided me with a sense of curiosity behind the reasoning for this novel.


In conclusion and this is my opinion, I wasn’t a fan of not having chapters or a clear indication of scene changes then someone said this. A friend from the book club said something that stuck with me. “Perhaps the reason it was written this way was for the readers could relate more to Esme and what her world looked like.” My friend’s comment did help me see the novel a little differently but still…I like chapters.

On a side note, I wanted to give thanks to Maggie O’Farrell for implementing a piece of women’s history I wasn’t fully aware of. This opened my eyes to something I didn’t know where true events in women’s history and for this, I say thank you, Maggie.


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Book Rating

Excellent/ Highly Recommend
Great/ Recommended
Good Story
Okay / Struggle to Finish
Meh / Did Not Finish
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