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It started as a special day at the circus. The Woodrow family was there for Greta's 7th birthday. The show was going fine until the clown asks for an audience volunteer. Five year-old introvert James Woodrow actually raises his hand and is picked to go on stage.
James hams it up for the crowd, stealing the show and surprising his parents with his outgoing behavior. At the height of the act, on a chair balanced on the clown's chin, James disappears into thin air. The crowd goes wild, the show concludes, and the young boy is nowhere to be found.
The Disapparation of James explores this vanishing from several angles with dreamlike sequences. The police move in immediately and name Mike the Clown as the number one suspect. Each member of the family reacts differently. Dr. Hannah Woodrow medicates herself to bed while her husband Justin seeks vengeance. Greta studies children's magic books for any advice on how to get her brother back. Even the officer assigned to the family becomes emotionally involved.
The actual disappearance scene is brief. The Disapparation of James examines planes parallel to the incident. Author Anne Ursu explores what would have happened if the Woodrow's never went to the circus. The story moves from actual events to the characters' dreams and back again.
Ursu has the remarkable ability to see the world through anyone's eyes. It is a gift she used in Spilling Clarence, her debut novel. In this novel, she moves from each character's perspective with ease. Greta is equally as complex as the adults in the tale.
The Disapparation of James asks more questions than it answers. Those expecting a tidy ending won't find one here. Ursu's work guides readers to explore all angles of the story. The surreal becomes very real in this thoroughly enjoyable read.