Vanishing Acts is the story of three generations of a troubled family, in the shadow of the Vietnam War to the 21st century perils of climate change, set in a Hawaii that is both fantastical and gritty in its portrayal of life down under the tropical dream. There was a time when sixteen year old Buddy’s life felt normal. Then an affair derails his parents marriage and his mother, with Buddy in tow, uproots their life in Maine to return to her childhood home in Volcano, Hawaii and care for her aging mother. Madge, a former 1960’s go-go dancer, is losing her grip on reality, as is Gwen, Buddy’s mother, who indulges in a steady cocktail of wine, Xanax, and Jesus. Meanwhile Buddy has become obsessed with one of his classmates, Marnie, whose fervent dream is to escape her broken family (and a damaging secret) to pursue a modeling career. She convinces Buddy to run away with her to Honolulu and live with her drug-dealer uncle. To find her son, Gwen grapples with the ghosts of her past and present, including her father, whose love of surfing and obsession with Houdini allowed him to become the ultimate escape artist.
About the Author
Jaimee Wriston Colbert is author of five books of fiction: Wild Things, a linked story collection, winner of the 2017 CNY Book Award in Fiction and finalist for the AmericanBookFest Best Books of 2017 ; the novel Shark Girls, Finalist for the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award; Dream Lives of Butterflies, gold medalist in the Independent Publisher Awards; Climbing the God Tree, winner of the Willa Cather Fiction Prize, and Sex, Salvation, and the Automobile, winner of the Zephyr Prize. Her stories have appeared in numerous journals, including New Letters, The Gettysburg Review and Prairie Schooner, and broadcast on “Selected Shorts.” Stories from Wild Things won the Ian MacMillan Fiction Prize, the Jane’s Stories Award and the Isotope Editor’s Prize. Originally from Hawaii, she lives in upstate New York where she is Professor of Creative Writing at SUNY, Binghamton University.
“Vanishing Acts dramatizes what doesn’t disappear: a mother's love for her son and for her own mother, the wages of loyalty, the terror of abandonment, and the possibility of transformation. Jaimee Wriston Colbert's fierce intelligence is at work in every sentence of this deeply felt novel about generational trauma. Once I started, I couldn’t stop reading and found myself gasping at the choices these fully realized characters make. In this daring, beautifully executed novel Colbert shows us that whatever we imagined to be an illusion might be entirely real."
—Lee Upton, author of The Tao of Humiliation and Visitations: Stories
"If serious writing attempts, as William Matthews says, "...to speak what it feels like to be human," than lucky the reader who discovers Jaimee Wriston Colbert's Vanishing Acts, her characters as compassionately rendered as any I have encountered in a long time. As one of them muses, "...he should become an artist and try at least [to] paint this thing, color its painful truth so others could know it too." And now I do, having read this hauntingly beautiful novel, the prose, sentence by sentence, resonant and as deeply considered as the generational story it tells. I not only applaud its heart, and craft, and courage, I do so loudly, gratefully."
—Jack Driscoll, The Goat Fish and the Lover’s Knot and The World of a Few Minutes Ago