Heidi Julavits: The Vanishers
Tuesday March 20, 2012
From the acclaimed novelist and The Believer editor Heidi Julavits, a wildly imaginative and emotionally intense novel about mothers, daughters, and the psychic damage women can inflict on one another. Julavits read from her new book The Vanishers and was interviewed by John Wray.
Is the bond between mother and daughter unbreakable, even by death?
Julia Severn is a student at an elite institute for psychics. Her mentor, the legendary Madame Ackermann, afflicted by jealousy, refuses to pass the torch to her young disciple. Instead, she subjects Julia to the humiliation of reliving her mother's suicide when Julia was an infant. As the two lock horns, and Julia gains power, Madame Ackermann launches a desperate psychic attack that leaves Julia the victim of a crippling ailment.
Julia retreats to a faceless job in Manhattan. But others have noted Julia's emerging gifts, and soon she's recruited to track down an elusive missing person—a controversial artist who might have a connection to her mother. As Julia sifts through ghosts and astral clues, everything she thought she knew of her mother is called into question, and she discovers that her ability to know the minds of others—including her own—goes far deeper than she ever imagined.
As powerful and gripping as all of Julavits's acclaimed novels, The Vanishers is a stunning meditation on grief, female rivalry, and the furious power of a daughter's love.
Heidi Julavits is the author of two previous novels, The Mineral Palace and The Effect of Living Backwards, as well as a collaborative book, Hotel Andromeda, with the artist Jenny Gage. She is a founding editor of The Believer, and her writings have appeared in Esquire, Time, The New York Times, McSweeney's among other places. She lives in Manhattan and Maine.
John Wray was born in Washington, DC in 1971. His three published novels, The Right Hand of Sleep, Canaan's Tongue and Lowboy, have earned him numerous awards and distinctions, including a Whiting Award, a KEN fiction award, and the 2010 Mary Ellen Van der Heyden Prize from the American Academy in Berlin. In 2007, Granta included him on its list of best American novelists under the age of 35. In addition to writing fiction, Wray is a regular contributor to Esquire, Spin, and The New York Times Magazine. He currently lives in Brooklyn.