Julia is not just any ordinary girl. Orphaned at a young age, she and her brother were taken in by a family of thieves for hire and trained to be partJulia is not just any ordinary girl. Orphaned at a young age, she and her brother were taken in by a family of thieves for hire and trained to be part of their group. Now, both Julia and her brother, Dex, use their talents to earn money in less than honest, but certainly profitable, ways.
Julia's current assignment is a post in the home of one Mrs. Ochs. As Ella, Julia toils away as a maid, given almost free reign of Mrs. Ochs's house. Which is good considering her client wants to know all the ins and outs of the home and the secrets its tenants are keeping. And those secrets, as Julia soon learns, are many. But who is her client and what is their end goal? And is it really in Julia's best interests to complete the job at hand?
Julia is a thief and a spy, one whose talents are singular when you consider she has the ability to make herself unseen. Not invisible exactly, and it's a power that eludes her amongst certain people - like her current employer Mrs. Ochs -, but it's an ability that does certainly help with her chosen occupation.
Of course in this world, one fraught with fear of magic and witches, it's paramount that Julia keep her ability an absolute secret. To be discovered could mean suffering the same fate as her mother, a convicted witch killed before Julia's very eyes.
Egan's created world is quite fantastic: an alternate France ruled by a king determined to weed out all of the witches in his lands. It's a dangerous time for magic and those so inclined. The witches in question can't burn and set their spells by writing them, which also means that the ability to read and write is something of a danger itself - Julia speaks of witches discovered by accident as they learned to write!
There is, as the officially synopsis (on today's earlier post) states, a subplot concerning a serial killer. A killer searching for something that could in reality be very close indeed to Julia's current position. Julia quickly becomes aware of this as she traces the killer's path of victims straight to Mrs. Ochs's newest boarder. And because we're given a glimpse inside the killer's world, we the reader know that the killer's intent is quite specific. And that the killer won't let anyone stand in the way of their goal.
Julia Vanishes is a bit of a spellbinding read, if you will. The world is so unique, Julia is likable and ballsy, and the plot is - if you hadn't noticed - quite intriguing: witches, magic, witch hunts, and murder... who can resist a well drawn plot with those elements? Certainly not this reader!...more
Erica Richards is a suburban housewife who has everything she could ever want - except excitement. A stay-at-home mom of four, Erica and her family liErica Richards is a suburban housewife who has everything she could ever want - except excitement. A stay-at-home mom of four, Erica and her family live in West Meadow, Long Island. The suburbs. Her daily routine includes a morning workout class (sometimes), shuttling the kids to and from school and other activities, occasionally fielding her sister's latest perceived disaster, and having dinner on the table by the time her husband gets home. If all goes well, that is. If the car hasn't broken down. If there isn't a prior engagement planned. If her husband isn't traveling.
And then her nephew begins acting out and bruises start to appear all over her sister. At Debbie's request, Erica tries to strike up a conversation with her nephew and find out what's going on. But her attempts to help start to turn her life upside down, leaving Erica unsure what to do next.
Wrong Highway is oh, so eighties and I love it! With nods to the era's pop culture, Wendy Gordon's suburban heroine navigates the highways and byways of her life as a mom, a wife, and a woman struggling to stay on the right path. But that "wrong highway" becomes too tempting for Erica to resist.
Erica's frequent reminiscing about her time as a nurse - when faced with her sister's hypochondriac melodrama, when talking to people she feels she needs to validate herself to, even when considering her husband's success - is just one sign of her on discontent. Motherhood is her job and she feels pressure and judgment in that regard when she's amongst her husband's peers, for example. But she's also bored. Her career was challenging and stimulating and that stimulus is missing in her current situation, or so she believes.
Jared, her nephew, offers a release. Something new. And something thrilling. She helps him in covering with his parents, who she makes no bones about losing respect for throughout the story, and ends up using him to find her own excitement.
Of course Erica's dabbling with the dark side starts to catch up to her.
A running subplot of the story is Erica's belief that her sister may be a victim of abuse. I hadn't realized that the set time of the story (1986) was the beginning of domestic violence as an actual legal offense and crime that could finally be punishable by law. Erica's suspicions, founded or not, do lead to her discovering just how difficult making a case for abuse still was, though.
Wrong Highway is a quick and engaging read - and a character driven one for sure, which is usually not my cup of tea. The combination of setting (the eighties) and Erica herself had me completely hooked, though, and hers was a story I definitely wanted to see through to the end....more