Questions & Topics for Discussion
1. When she learns she was kidnapped as a child, Delia''s choice
of profession takes on a new significance. What motivated Delia to
pursue a career in search-and-rescue? Does she view it differently
once she knows about her past?
2. Delia says that as children she, Fitz, and Eric each had
their roles: "Fitz was the dreamer; I was the practical tactician.
Eric, on the other hand, was the front man: the one who could charm
adults or other kids with equal ease." Have they continued these
roles into adulthood? How so? Is each one comfortable in his or her
role, or is there a longing to be something different?
3. In one instance Eric muses that "there are people in this
world who have done worse things than Andrew Hopkins." What is your
opinion of what Andrew did--taking Delia away from her mother and
creating a new life for the two of them? From a legal standpoint,
is he guilty of a crime? How about from a moral standpoint?
4. Andrew himself says, "Does it really matter why I did it? By
now, you''ve already formed your impression. You believe that an
act committed a lifetime ago defines a man, or you believe that a
person''s past has nothing to do with his future." A person cannot
change his or her past actions, but can they make up for the hurt
they''ve caused by helping others? Does the good that Andrew has
done for the town of Wexton and for the senior citizens in his
care--not to mention the happy childhood he gave Delia--make up for
or excuse his taking his daughter? What do you make of Elise''s
remark to Andrew that Delia "turned out absolutely perfect"?
5. Eric believes that he does not have "the experience or the
wits or the confidence" to represent Andrew. Why then does he agree
to take on the case? Why does he continue to act as Andrew''s
attorney even when it causes tension between him and Delia?
6. In one instance Delia says to Fitz about meeting her mother
for the first time, "I want this to be perfect. I want her
to be perfect. But what if she''s not? What if I''m not?"
How does the reality measure up when she finally meets her mother?
What kind of understanding do Delia and Elise come to? Why does
Elise give Delia the "spell"--is it to help Andrew or her
7. Delia believes "it takes two people to make a lie work: the
person who tells it, and the one who believes it." How do the
characters in the novel, including Delia herself, prove this to be
8. During the trial, Eric tells the court he is an alcoholic.
What does the exchange between Eric and Delia while he is
questioning her on the witness stand reveal about their
relationship? Do they view each other differently after this
exchange? As two people who love alcoholics, how does Delia''s
treatment of Eric differ from Andrew''s treatment of Elise? Whose
actions and reactions, given their partner''s disease, do you
9. Eric says to Andrew, "Everyone deserves a second chance." How
does the idea of second chances play out in Vanishing
Acts? Are there any characters who deserve a second chance and
don''t get one? And, conversely - are there any characters who do
get a second chance - and squander it?
10. Elise tells Delia, "If you had grown up with me, this is one
of the things I would have tried to teach you: marry a man who
loves you more than you love him. Because I have done both now, and
when it is the other way around, there is no spell in the world
that can even out the balance." Discuss this in terms of Delia''s
relationships with both Eric and Fitz. Which man do you think Delia
should be with, and why?
11. Both Delia and Sophie quickly develop a close relationship
with Ruthann. When Ruthann commits suicide, Delia is there to
witness it. Why does she not try to stop Ruthann? What does Delia
come to realize about herself from this experience?
12. Many of the chapters told from Andrew''s point of view occur
while he is in prison, "where everyone reinvents himself." What do
these scenes, which depict in graphic detail the harsh realities of
life behind bars, reveal about Andrew? What do they add to the
13. Right versus wrong is a dominant theme in Vanishing
Acts--whether Andrew was right or wrong to kidnap Delia,
whether Eric is right or wrong to hide his continued drinking from
Delia, whether Delia is right or wrong not to stop Ruthann. How do
the multiple perspectives in the story blur these lines and show
how two people can view the same situation completely different?
Were there any instances where you changed your mind about
something in the story after reading a different character''s
14. Fitz tells Delia, "I think you''re angry at yourself, for
not being smart enough to figure this out all on your own...If you
don''t want someone to change your life for you again, Dee, you''ve
got to change it yourself." How do Fitz''s words make Delia see her
15. Ruthann introduces Delia to the Hopi creation myth, which
suggests that humans have outgrown the world four times already,
and are about to inhabit a fifth. Do most people outgrow their
origins? Is reinvention part of the human experience? How do each
of the characters'' actions support or disprove this?
16. At one point, we learn that Fitz has not been writing about
Andrew''s trial, but about Delia. In fact, when he reads the first
few pages to her, we can recognize them as the first few pages of
this book. How does this affect the story you read? Is Fitz a
17. Much is made of the nature of memory - whether it is stored
physically, whether it can be conjured at will, whether it can be
organically triggered or planted. Ultimately, do you believe
Delia''s recovered memories at the end of the book? Why or why
18. How are each of the main characters--Delia, Fitz, Eric,
Andrew, and Elise--most changed by the events that take place?
Where do you envision the characters five years from now?