Book Reviews Reviews

The Uses of Enchantment by Heidi Julavits


The Uses of Enchantment by Heidi Julavitz is dark and lush and strange and funny.

It is set in Salem, MA, and tells the story of Mary Veal, a descendant of a Salem witch, who may or may not have faked her own abduction from her private girl’s school when she was sixteen years old.

Late last year, I read Julavitz’ journal/memoir, The Folded Clock, and fell in love (it is currently on the reread-for-inspiration list). Right away, I knew I needed to read her fiction and ordered secondhand copies of The Vanishers and this book. Like many of the other books I impulse-purchase, these have gone unread until last night where I felt very much in the mood for a good, literary mystery.

Both dreamlike and Freudian (getting some lowkey The White Hotel by D.M. Thomas vibes here), and told from multiple perspectives, the book explores disappearances (both literal and figurative), young female sexuality, family, death, power dynamics, and the blurred line between what we know and don’t know.

Side note: The Uses of Enchantment shares its name with a vintage book of critical theory on fairytales that I’ve owned forever by Bruno Bettelheim, and I can’t help but imagine this connection is meaningful in some way.


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