I was sitting at my local Starbucks, waiting for a friend, when I noticed a display of used paperback books on the shelf. One of them caught my eye in particular—I’m not sure if it was the title, the cover, or if the book was just meant to be in my possession. (Yes, I believe that books can be that magical.)
The novel was The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell. The synopsis was pretty vague and a little strange, but the $3 price tag helped seal the deal, and I bought it. A couple of weeks later, I brought it on vacation with me.
I’m so glad this seemingly “random” book found me. Flipping seamlessly between the past and the present, it reveals the secrets and betrayals of one family over the span of several generations. It’s told from the perspective of three very different family members in different decades. Without giving anything away, I’ll tell you that it involves a lifetime stay in a mental hospital.
The story is heartbreaking and, frankly, haunting. I felt emotionally attached to the main character right off the bat. I found myself taking on her feelings. The novel deals with the antiquated idea of “female hysteria” and the stigma of mental illness, both of which are, unfortunately, still very relevant in the present day.
Even if you don’t read this one (which you should, obviously), hopefully this will inspire you to pick up a book “at random” next time.