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12 / 30 books. 40% done!

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63 / 104 books. 61% done!

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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Odd, Disquieting Grief Novel Tells a Thought-Provoking Story

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

To celebrate Greta Woodrow's seventh birthday, her parents take her and her younger brother to the circus.  When Mike the Clown asks for a volunteer from the audience, all the Woodrows are shocked that James raises his hand.  The five-year-old is painfully shy, so much so that his mother is considering therapy for the odd child.  The family is even more astonished when James seems to be not just comfortable onstage, but also an effortless crowd pleaser.  When, for his final act, Mike the Clown makes James disappear, the audience roars its approval.  

The Woodrows can't wait to congratulate their son on his brilliant performance.  They wait for him to join them in the lobby.  And wait.  And wait.  And wait.  James is nowhere to be found.  Mike the Clown insists he never saw the boy after the big finale.  A search of the theater produces no clues.  James Woodrow has simply disappeared.  

As the days wear on with no sign of the missing child, the Woodrow Family slowly falls to pieces.  Greta knows it's up to her to find out what happened to her brother.  She uses her vivid imagination to conjure up scenarios that help her cope with the loss.  Still, the questions linger:  Where is James?  Did someone kidnap him or did he truly disappear in a puff of magical smoke?

The Disapparation of James by Anne Ursu starts with a simple question:  What if a circus vanishing act really worked?  The unsettling inquiry offers a fresh avenue for exploring the effects of loss on a normal, everyday family.  Still, this isn't not your average grief book—The Disapparation of James is undeniably odd.  It's also depressing.  Overall, though, it's a well-written, character-driven novel that brings something new to the table.  I didn't love it, but I found it very thought-provoking.

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for strong language and violence

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find  


  1. What a creepy story! I've never heard of it. Not sure I want to read it. Clowns. Ick.

  2. Ugh, you're always reading books that sounds so fascinating. My TBR list can't handle it!


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