Holly's Reviews > The Uses of Enchantment

The Uses of Enchantment by Heidi Julavits
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May 28, 2007

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Read in March, 2007

The Uses of Enchantment tells the story of a middle-class suburban teenager, Mary Veal, who mysteriously disappears. When she turns up after a couple of months, she is taken under the wing of a therapist who determines that she faked her own abduction, and writes a book about this "syndrome" in adolescent girls. The story is told from different perspectives--that of the therapist, the present-day teenager (now in her 30s), and chapters entitled "What Might Have Happened," which recount the abduction (or do they?). There is also a parallel story of a teenager abducted in the 1970s under similar circumstances, and another one about a Salem witch. What actually happened is never made clear, which I guess is much of the point, but so frustrating! I'm not opposed to ambiguity in plot, and under certain circumstances find it refreshing, but there was so much ambiguity here that it obscured the story. Although Julavits is great at description, there is also some uneveness in tone, and I found some of the dialogue (exchanges with her sisters, in particular) excruciating. I have no sisters and therefore no personal experience upon which to judge, so perhaps talking to them is excruciating? All in all, an ambitious novel with some rough patches.
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