The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

In the middle of tending to the everyday business at her vintage-clothing shop and sidestepping her married boyfriend’s attempts at commitment, Iris Lockhart receives a stunning phone call: Her great-aunt Esme, whom she never knew existed, is being released from Cauldstone Hospital—where she has been locked away for more than sixty-one years.

Iris’s grandmother Kitty always claimed to be an only child. But Esme’s papers prove she is Kitty’s sister, and Iris can see the shadow of her dead father in Esme’s face. 

Esme has been labeled harmless—sane enough to coexist with the rest of the world. But she's still basically a stranger, a family member never mentioned by the family, and one who is sure to bring life-altering secrets with her when she leaves the ward. If Iris takes her in, what dangerous truths might she inherit?

A gothic, intricate tale of family secrets, lost lives, and the freedom brought by truth, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox will haunt you long past its final page.

Reviews from Goodreads.com

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By Anna (Las Cruces, NM) · ★★★☆☆ · October 29, 2007
This book just ends. That's it. You have to really use your imagination to understand what happens. The story was good, I just would like it to have ended different. And there were a couple of subplots that did not play out, even though the author could have done something with them. ...more
By Lindsay · ★★★★☆ · September 06, 2008
The human brain is a tricky thing and O'Farrell has provided readers with a fascinating look into the psyche of three women in "The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox." Iris learns of her great aunt's existence when the mental institution in which Esme has been living for the past 60 years contacts her... ...more
By Shannon (Giraffe Days) (Australia) · ★★★★★ · June 16, 2010
Every now and then you come across a book so perfectly whole, so complete in itself, that you marvel as you read. It has such flow, such control of style, such effortless prose, that it's almost impossible to put it down. Such a book is The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, which I could have easily... ...more
By Sonia (Goa, India) · ★★★☆☆ · January 26, 2009
Esmee Lennox incarcerated in a mental asylum at the age of sixteen for sixty years only because she did not fit in with the time, besides she is a convenient scapegoat for the mother, in whose absence the little brother Hugo dies and Esmee remains with the little dead brother for 3 days alone in... ...more
By Carol (Colorado Springs, CO) · ★★★★☆ · March 01, 2015
Unforgettable book with a stunning ending that will haunt me for some time to come. This is an outstanding book and a tragic and disturbing story...believable because what was done to Esme may not have been a rare occurrence for women in that time. As a child and young woman, Esme was naïve yet s... ...more
By Nicole (The United States) · ★★★★★ · February 07, 2009
My favorite book so far this year, and I have a feeling it will be one of the top three once 2009 comes to an end. A great book!
Interesting, intriguing, sad, suspenseful, shocking are some of the words I would use to describe this book...and the best part is that it all came perfectly together at... ...more
By Jim (San Diego, CA) · ★★★☆☆ · February 11, 2011
Maggie O'Farrell's new novel asks the question: What do you do if the local psychiactric hospital calls to tell you you've got a great aunt you never knew you had?

Iris Lockhart doesn't want to bring a lady who may or may not be crazy into her house, but with her parents gone and her grandmother,... ...more
By Lisa (Chicago, IL) · ★★★★★ · November 12, 2007
I'm having trouble summing up this book. It's very complex, it's horrifying and it's very, very sad.

Iris Lockhart starts getting phone calls one day from a mental institution named Cauldstone claiming that she is listed as the contact for one Esme Lennox - the sister of Iris' grandmother, Katheri... ...more
By Myra (The United States) · ★★★★★ · May 07, 2008
I borrowed this book from my friend Tara, and was it ever a great recommendation!

The very nature of this novel makes it a hard one to do a review on without giving away the best parts of the book. As the story unfolds that surrounds Esme, Iris, and Kitty, the words and feelings have a way of touc... ...more
By Pamela · ★★★☆☆ · June 13, 2011
This is one of those stories that has all the components of greatness--a well-concieved, interesting trajectory, mystery, betrayal, tragedy, paralleling societal and family injustice and feminist themes. There are also some moments of lovely poetry in O'Farrell's writing style. I should have love... ...more