Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Uses of Enchantment - Heidi Julavits [October/06]

I really need to post about this so I do not forget what the book is about! I read a while ago, but it only came out on this passed Tuesday. So, there is some memory lapse in play. Anyways, this was my crazy week at school, so I should be back around a bit more now. There is some crazy virus spreading through some of the universities in my province. This has resulted in universities closing and one of them is under lock down. So, I got let home early today. This is mid-term period, people are overtired and sick and stuff, so we are supposed to be getting extra sleep and stuff. Anyways, on with the book.

From Random House:

In late afternoon on November 7, 1985, sixteen-year-old Mary Veal was abducted after field hockey practice at her all-girls New England prep school.

Or was she?

A few weeks later an unharmed Mary reappears as suddenly and mysteriously as she disappeared, claiming to have little memory of what happened to her. Her socially ambitious mother, a compelling if frosty woman descended from a Salem witch, is concerned that Mary has somehow been sullied by the experience and sends her to therapy with a psychologist named Dr. Hammer.

Mary turns out to be a cagey and difficult patient. Dr. Hammer begins to suspect thatMary concocted her tale of abduction when he discovers its parallels with a seventeenth-century narrative of a girl who was abducted by Indians and who caused her rescuer to be hanged as a witch. Hammer, eager to further his professional reputation, decides to write a book about Mary’s faked abduction, a project her mother sanctions, because she'd rather her daughter be a liar than a rape victim.

Fifteen years later, Mary has returned to Boston for her mother's funeral. Her abduction—real or imagined—has tainted many lives, including her own. When Mary finds a suggestive letter sent to her mother, she suspects her mother planned a reconciliation before her death. Thus begins a quest that requires Mary to revisit the people and places in her past.

The Uses of Enchantment weaves a spell in which the reader sees how the extraordinary power of a young woman’s sexuality, and the desire to wield it, have a devastating effect on all involved. The riveting cat-and-mouse power games between doctor and patient, and between abductor and abductee, are gradually, dreamily revealed, along with the truth about what actually happened in 1985.

Heidi Julavits is in full command of her considerable gifts and has crafted a dazzling narrative sure to garner her further acclaim as one of the best novelists working today.
I am going to be honest, when this came in the mail, I could not for the life of me remember what it was about. I seemed to think that the Salem witch connection played a larger role than it ended up doing. So, I was disappointed until I figured out what was going on. I enjoyed this book, though. It was rather strange, and it jumped around between three time periods, which, at times, was rather confusing.

My problem, since I think the blurb I took from Random House tells you the general idea of what the story was about, was the ending. I don't think I liked it. I thought it ended too quickly, that there should have been something more there. Or, more like, I did not like how it ended. I wanted something to happen that didn't happen. Mary was so interesting in the scenes where she is younger, but she grows up and gets so dull. The story ends with her being dull. I waited for her to get the closure that was sort of the whole point to the book, and she just wimps out at the end. I am not sure if I am making it very clear, because I liked this book, I just wished for things that didn't happen.

I also like the cover. It sort of goes in with the trend lately of showing parts of bodies on book covers. I wonder, what will people think 20 years from now when they see all these body part covers. Anyways, this cover is fitting though, because Mary was always hidden from her parents. You never get the impression that her parents ever really knew her at all, that anyone really ever knew her. She was a faceless void in most people's lives before her kidnapping.


I forgot! For more info on this book, click here


  1. Sounds like an interesting story, even though I probably won't add it to my TBR list because of what you said about the ending. I understand exactly what you mean about things not turning out how you wanted. You spend the whole book sort of rooting for the main character and in the end they don't get what you want them to get or change in the way that you want them to. It does kind of mess the book up for me. Have you ever read Dive from Clausens Pier? Thats whats popping into my head right now as an example of what were talking about. I agree with you about the cover, its lovely. Enjoyed your review.

  2. I was going to ask for this one, but I'm glad I didn't now. :P


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