From acclaimed novelist and editor of The Believer Heidi Julavits, comes a wildly imaginative novel about grief, female rivalry, and the furious power of a daughter’s love.
Julia Severn is a talented student at an elite institute for psychics. When Julia’s mentor, the legendary Madame Ackerman, grows jealous of her protégée’s talents, she subjects Julia to the painful humiliation of reliving her mother’s suicide . . . and then launches a desperate psychic attack.
But Julia’s gifts, though a threat to her teacher, prove an asset to others. Soon she’s recruited to track down a missing person who might have a connection to her mother. As Julia sifts through ghosts and astral clues, everything she thought she knew about her mother is called into question, and she discovers that her ability to know the minds of others—including her own—goes far deeper than she ever imagined.
About the Author
Heidi Julavits is the author of two previous novels, The Mineral Palace and The Effect of Living Backwards, as well as a collaborative book, Hotel Andromeda, with the artist Jenny Gage. She is a founding editor of The Believer, and her writings have appeared in Esquire, Time, The New York Times, McSweeney's among other places. She lives in Manhattan and Maine.
“Darkly comic. . . . Sharp-eyed, sardonic, hilarious. . . . Julavits is at her acrobatically linguistic best. . . . Remarkable.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“It is always an adventure and a delight to read Heidi Julavits. Her intellectual brio and descriptive inventiveness are on full display in The Vanishers, but she’s gone further this time by inventing a new genre: the astral detective thriller.”
—Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad
“An absorbing meditation on female competition with Hitchcockian twists. . . . Gripping.”
“Part coming-of-age story, part murder mystery, part absurdist romp, part neurological novel. . . . . Julavits’ characters are as earnestly bizarre as Haruki Murakami’s, and she’s as funny as Lorrie Moore.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Sharply original. . . . Stylish and fiercely funny. . . . A wild, fun ride that doesn’t let up until the last sentence. . . . Julavits is a fearlessly inventive writer.”
“Julavits is a keen observer of the high drama. . . . An evocative writer, she conjures up the supernatural in a way that feels plausible. . . . Haunting.”
“The protagonist . . . could join the ranks of literature’s most unreliable narrators, alongside Humbert Humbert and Huck Finn.”
—Wall Street Journal
“Themes of loss, reinvention and the ways women build each other up and tear each other down . . . run through The Vanishers. But Julavits balances the emotional vertigo with sharp wit. . . . Like a dream, it’s never anything but intriguing.”
—The Seattle Times
“Julavits has a questing, eclectic intellect. . . . She creates a sophisticated symmetry in the final surprising moments of Julia’s story, and, as if in an encore, adds an adroit comic flip at the end.”
—The Boston Globe
“A fascinating inquiry into matriarchal structures: their power struggles, the projections, distortions, and anxieties that result, and, above all, the creative—and destructive—energies that they unleash. A real achievement.”
—Tom McCarthy, author of Remainder and C
“Thrilling, subversive insights. . . . Powerful in many ways. . . . On the subject of loss in particular, Julavits is an expert, writing with eloquence and poetry.”
—The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Bristling with wicked humor and sharp-edged irony, The Vanishers explores the ways in which the dead can haunt the living and the often painful persistence of memory.”
“A blistering read. Female aggression may lurk everywhere, but Julavits decides to unleash her antagonists in a quirky realm, the fictional Institute of Integrated Parapsychology, a New Hampshire school for students of the occult. . . . If you’re lucky, you have one brazen friend who can mesmerize the room with a wild story. If you’re not, The Vanishers will provide a similar jolt of transgressive, feminine thrill.”
—The Plain Dealer
“Julavits is no ordinary writer, and the meta-heavy brilliance of her fourth novel is something akin to a Sylvia Plath poem transferred telepathically to a psychic who happens to be solving a missing-person’s case while being film-followed by artist Sophie Calle.”
“Fantastic, deep and complicated. . . . Explores the way loss, disappointment, anger, deception and trauma can bleed down from generation to generation. . . . A complicated, often troubling meditation on the complexities of relationships.”
—The Boston Phoenix
“Clever. . . . Funny, affecting. . . . Julavits has imagined an ambitious world that reveals the depths of the matriarchal power structure. . . . At the same time, [she] does some clever twisting to the classic revenge plot. . . . Satisfying in all its attempts as a robust mystery, satire of academia, and finicky family drama.”
“One of the best novels I’ve ever read, delivering all the immediate pleasures of mystery, horror, and satire while exploring grief in language that is as shocking for its originality as its precision. Julavits takes readers on a wild ride that hops continents and decades, but the real setting of The Vanishers is the gray territory between sickness and health, sanity and delusion, love and hatred, life and death.”
—Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia! and St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves