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The Disapparation of James Paperback – Jan 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Theia; Reprint edition (Jan. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786886633
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786886630
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,404,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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James Woodrow's parents have never seen him so excited. Read the first page
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By A. Ross TOP 500 REVIEWER on 23 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback
The disappearance or death of a child is quite literally a parent's worst nightmare, and there are countless thrillers revolving around such scenarios. Here, Ursu takes that nightmare and twists it just enough so that the focus is not on the hunt for the missing child, but on the effect on the parents and family. It's a clever way into the topic that neatly sidesteps the procedural plot points that dominate thrillers about the same topic, and allow for a much richer exploration of the psychology of such an event.

The Woodrow family is at the circus for their 7-year-old daughter Greta's birthday and their possibly developmentally disabled 5-year-old son, James, is fidgety and withdrawn until the appearance of Mike the Clown. All of a sudden, the normally shy James perks up and even volunteers to be part of a trick. However, the clown's disappearing act becomes all too real when the Woodrow's son vanishes in a puff of smoke, and no one, not the clown, the cops, or the parents have the remotest understanding of how it happened, or where's he gone. Each family member copes with the loss in their own way (mother sinks into near-catatonic depression, father has wild rages, and Greta creates a rich tale about where her brother has gone), and while these are somewhat obvious reactions, they are vividly and realistically rendered (it should come as no surprise that the least obvious coping mechanism of the three, Greta's story, is the most interesting).

The obvious message of the book is that no matter how closely we watch and guard over our children, we ultimately have only the illusion of control over what happens to them. In the case of this story, the fates can literally spirit them away. This is the kind of theme that I'm not sure I would have found interesting in any way prior to becoming a parent, but now that I am, strikes me with intensity. A thought-provoking read, especially for parents.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 24 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
A beautifully written, hearbreaking fairy tale. 29 Dec. 2002
By M.J. Rose - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I read Ursu's book in two days, the whole time torn between wanting to put it down becuase it was painful, but being unable to.
I could see it all unfolding, hear it all. The details, the scenes and the dialog are expertly drawn.
But ultimately it is Ursu's themes - the randomness of loss, the chaos of a world where it takes so much courage to hold onto faith, and the risk we take when we love deeply - that makes this book a memorable one.
The Disapparation of James is a beautifully written and heartbreaking fairy tale for the times we live in.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
a moving story 16 Jun. 2003
By Lisa - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This was a wonderful book. I did not really like Anne Ursu's first book, Spilling Clarence- but I did think she has a wonderful writing style. Here, her lovely, almost dream-like sentences serve the story well, and her characters are all very realistically drawn.
It's an unsettling story, with multiple points of view, and multiple realities. James, is a shy, quiet little boy, who is enthralled with the idea of seeing this magician. His parents and sister are delighted when James is brought to be on stage with the magician, and reveals an outgoing, cheerful side of himself. All is well until James really does disappear.
We see this nightmare through the eyes of everyone involved. We feel the mother's and father's separate terrors and pains, we see the sister's valiant attempts to figure out how to find James, we feel useless along with the detective assigned to watch over the family, and we see the bewilderment of the magician, himself. Where did James go?
Now, that in itself, could be a story unto itself, but Anne Ursu chooses instead to focus on the drama at home. The fact that she doesn't really explore what did happen to James is a bit of a disappointment, but the story she does tell is amazing by itself.
It's a story full of very quiet terrors, humors, and the unsettling notion that life can not only change at any second, but we may not even realize it when it does. Her writing style may be a little disorienting at first, but I think that once you start reading in earnest, it would be hard to put this book down.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A Tale Of Magic, Magically Done 6 April 2003
By Louis N. Gruber - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Little James Woodrow was so shy and self-absorbed that his parents were about to take him in for testing; then, when they bring him to the circus for his big sister's seventh birthday, he actually volunteers to take part in a magic act. And, at the climactic moment of the act, he disappears. Really disappears into thin air. Poof! And his family is devastated.
So how do they cope? How do they change? Will things ever be made right? The author looks deeply into each of the characters--the father, the mother, the big sister, the clown who set it all in motion, the policeman who is supposed to guard the family--and explores their inner worlds. How will they deal with grief? What childhood demons still pursue them? What are their dreams and hopes? And what fantasies of magic and power do they still hold dear?
A profoundly psychological study of loss, grief and coping, magic is the metaphor that holds it together. Magic as illusion. Magic as escape. And the ever-haunting question--is there real magic? Author Anne Ursu writes extremely well, in lucid and simple prose. She draws you in quickly and engages you so that you can't stop reading. The characters soon become real and you care what happens to them. Well, yes, it is a bit overdone at points, a bit too sentimental, but it works well. I recommend this one highly. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Real Life Magic 6 Jan. 2003
By B. Malloy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I devoured this wonderful book in a day -- maternal insecurities, humor, anguish, childish wisdom, and fear all come together to weave a magical piece of storytelling. Do yourself a favor and hop on this wild and imaginative ride!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Good read and unique idea 12 Feb. 2003
By Marianne Fulmont - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Anne Ursu apparently isn't short of unique ideas. This novel tells a "missing child" story like no other--James is the subject of a magic trick where he disappears, for good! While the story unfolds in the usual manner--everyone is baffled, parents, police, magician/clown and all--the real joy is how the parts of the characters tie in together. The father deals with James' disappearance with rage and despair, the mother thinks the other kids will disppear too, and so on. And in that way, the story resembles The Lovely Bones, as the reader gets to see the impact of the loss on the family, though it is told more fluidly here than in Alice Sebold's novel.
However, at a few points in the story, I felt the writing dried just a little and appeared merely competent, but overall it is a novel well worth reading.
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