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The Uses of Enchantment by Heidi Julavits
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The Uses of Enchantment (2006)

by Heidi Julavits

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3521631,026 (3.06)13
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    In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O'Brien (kinsey_m)
    kinsey_m: Julavits mentioned that this book inspired the structure of the Uses of Enchantment
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I love this book, in particular the "what may have happened" sections, but also how it all ties together. Another thing that I like, is that when I picked it for the firts time I wasn't so sure if I was going to like it, I thought: "ok, once more the girl becomes a victim", but this was not the case at all (the same thing happened the first time I saw Juno, although they are quite different).

Previous reviweres have mentioned that they liked better the earlier version of Mary, that she was more interesting. Which is true. Nevertheless, if Mary had grown up and continued to do the same things she did as a teenager, she'd be a completely different person (without empathy for anyone's feelings, needing to be always the centre of attention). Instead, she is atoning for her past actions, and is trying to go unnoticed. As her aunt says at some point: "you were a teenager, you didn't know that anyone else existed". This fact, that as she grows up she discovers that other people exist and that her actions have consequences, is what makes Mary human and somehow more well-balanced that some of the adults in the book, even if not as adventurous as her younger self. ( )
  kinsey_m | Nov 6, 2013 |
Much like the last book I read, I don't like the characters, or maybe even the story. But I keep reading everything this woman writes, because though it's depressing/annoying, she's really good at writing about how fucked up people are and thoroughly people can fuck each other up. It's smartly written, with some kind of brilliant descriptions.
  omnia_mutantur | Nov 30, 2011 |
As a more patient reviewer below puts it:

"...30-year old Mary just wasn't as compelling a character as her younger self, and her interactions with her bitchy sisters and other parts of her past dragged at times. While the analyst notes depicting the cat-and-mouse game Mary played with the therapist who was hoping to resurrect his career off of his theories about her were ... maddening at times."

And the therapist's notes should be easy to make interesting, imo.

And yet this comment makes me *almost* want to give the book another try:

"... she was one of those people who are like biological blank slates, who pick up and reflect the traits of the people who are around her at any given moment. That's what makes her story so interesting, and why her two very public betrayals in those years (first agreeing with Hammer that she had lied, then agreeing with Biedelman that she had lied about lying) so fascinating instead of scummy, even though one of the lies leads to a psychiatrist getting unfairly disbarred from his industry; because in the teenage Mary's eyes, she is simply agreeing to whatever it is that the people around her want her to be." ( )
  Periodista | Sep 25, 2009 |
There is a lot going on in this book. The story centers on Mary, a girl who was reportedly abducted for one month in 1985, returning to her family with no memory of the time she was gone. The book hints to the events that might have occurred during that time (mainly the interesting relationship between Mary and the man we are led to believe was behind her disappearance), as well as the therapy sessions Mary was forced to endure in her mother’s attempts to determine whether she was actually abducted or not and whether she really remembers what happened during the month she was missing. The book also moves to the present and focuses on Mary’s relationship with her two sisters at the time of their mother’s death in 1999. To me, the book is about different perceptions of reality (what Mary leads people to believe happened and what really did happen), the psychology of repressed memories, and how what was left unsaid about the month Mary was gone and the importance placed on that time by her mother affected the rest of the family.

The book was interesting, but parts of it dragged, and I thought the passages about the therapy sessions were all over the place and somewhat confusing. I bet if I read it again, I’d pick up on things I missed the first time, but it’s not a book I’d rush to read over. ( )
  annaeccentric | Jul 15, 2009 |
First, I have to say, reading an advance reader's copy, which is what I got as a present, is an odd experience. More typoes, less punctuation, some marks where numbers or addresses are to be entered later... it's a bit offputting, but I don't think it ruined the experience.

This book was a fast read, but a good one, for the most part. The story advances along three tracks, one on the course of an abduction of sorts when the main character is 14, one on the course of psychological treatment a few months after the abduction, and one when the character is returning home for her mother's funeral a decade and a half later. The writing style for each of them is set off, so it's easy to tell whose section you're in.

I won't give away much about the story, but the themes are strong: how you believe in the people around you, and the stories you tell each other and yourself. It's pretty strong in this regard, and it's an interesting take. I enjoyed a lot of it.

The dialogue, too, is good and crisp, and the characters are fairly lively. There's a lot of good continuity stuff, as well, so a close reading, even if it is fast, does pay off. There's a lot going for this book.

And yet, it just doesn't feel like it comes together enough; lots of stuff is mentioned offhand or hinted at that seems like it'd be important to hear more about, and it doesn't come in. I'm okay with leaving some stuff to happen offscreen, but I think that the book would have been better with it in. I don't want to say exactly what, but if you're curious, I can tell you individually later.

The conclusion: worth reading, sure, but I'd maybe just borrow it. ( )
  Capfox | Jun 16, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385513232, Hardcover)

In late afternoon on November 7, 1985, sixteen-year-old Mary Veal was abducted after field hockey practice at her all-girls New England prep school.

Or was she?

A few weeks later an unharmed Mary reappears as suddenly and mysteriously as she disappeared, claiming to have little memory of what happened to her. Her socially ambitious mother, a compelling if frosty woman descended from a Salem witch, is concerned that Mary has somehow been sullied by the experience and sends her to therapy with a psychologist named Dr. Hammer.

Mary turns out to be a cagey and difficult patient. Dr. Hammer begins to suspect thatMary concocted her tale of abduction when he discovers its parallels with a seventeenth-century narrative of a girl who was abducted by Indians and who caused her rescuer to be hanged as a witch. Hammer, eager to further his professional reputation, decides to write a book about Mary’s faked abduction, a project her mother sanctions, because she'd rather her daughter be a liar than a rape victim.

Fifteen years later, Mary has returned to Boston for her mother's funeral. Her abduction—real or imagined—has tainted many lives, including her own. When Mary finds a suggestive letter sent to her mother, she suspects her mother planned a reconciliation before her death. Thus begins a quest that requires Mary to revisit the people and places in her past.

The Uses of Enchantment weaves a spell in which the reader sees how the extraordinary power of a young woman’s sexuality, and the desire to wield it, have a devastating effect on all involved. The riveting cat-and-mouse power games between doctor and patient, and between abductor and abductee, are gradually, dreamily revealed, along with the truth about what actually happened in 1985.

Heidi Julavits is in full command of her considerable gifts and has crafted a dazzling narrative sure to garner her further acclaim as one of the best novelists working today.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:01 -0400)

"In late afternoon on November 7, 1985, sixteen-year-old Mary Veal was abducted after field hockey practice at her all-girls hockey practice at her all-girls New England prep school. Or was she?" "A few weeks later an unharmed Mary reappears as suddenly and mysteriously as she disappeared, claiming to have little memory of what happened to her. Her socially ambitious mother, a compelling if frosty woman descended from a Salem witch, is concerned that Mary has somehow been sullied by the experience and sends her to therapy with a psychologist named Dr. Hammer." "Mary turns out to be a cagey and difficult patient. Dr. Hammer begins to suspect that Mary concocted her tale of abduction when he discovers its parallels with a seventeenth-century narrative of a girl who was abducted by Indians and who caused her rescuer to be hanged as a witch. Hammer, eager to further his professional reputation, decides to write a book about Mary's faked abduction, a project her mother sanctions because she'd rather her daughter be a liar than a rape victim." "Fifteen years later, Mary has returned to Boston for her mother's funeral. Her abduction - real or imagined - has tainted many lives, including her own. When Mary finds a suggestive letter sent to her mother, she suspects her mother planned a reconciliation before her death. Thus begins a quest that requires Mary to revisit the people and places in her past." "The Uses of Enchantment weaves a spell in which the reader sees how the extraordinary power of a young woman's sexuality, and the desire to wield it, have a devastating effect on all involved. The riveting cat-and-mouse power games between doctor and patient, and between abductor and abductee, are gradually, dreamily revealed, along with the truth about what actually happened in 1985."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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