In early 2020, Margarita Montimore published her debut novel, Oona Out of Order. It followed a woman who awakes every January 1st at a different point in her life. She lives in that year, and in that body, until December 31st, only to awaken the following morning beginning a different year at a different age. The novel is inventive, thoughtful, and a page turner! Now Montimore is back with her new novel, Acts of Violet, and it may be better than her debut.
During the 1990s, Violet Volk becomes one of the best known, and controversial, stage magicians in the world. She makes a name for herself in the primarily male dominated community of magicians, performing in television specials and a run of shows at a Las Vegas casino. Volk goes on to parlay her popularity into a pair of highly successful self-help books and another series of performance infused workshops.
After a decade in the spotlight, with increasing demands on her time and personal resources, Volk steps away for a few years to regroup. In 2008, Violet returns to the public eye, with a high-profile comeback show in her town, Willow Glen, NJ. In spite of a continuing estrangement, Volk invites her sister, Sasha, who still lives in Willow Glen with her husband, Gabriel, and their daughter, Quinn. Mid-way through the show, Volk vanishes. At first it appears to be part of the act, but it soon becomes clear it is not. Searches are conducted and Violet is investigated. After a number of years, Sasha has her declared legally dead. Sasha is repeatedly approached by various media outlets for an interview, which, over the years, she never agrees to do. In 2018, as the anniversary of Violet’s disappearance approaches, the interest in her career and continued absence reaches a fever pitch. It seems that everyone wants to know what happened to Violet Volk and the person who seems most likely to know, her sister, has no answers.
In Acts of Violet, Margarita Montimore explores fame, fortune, and family dynamics. Montimore creates a larger than life character in Violet Volk, a striking stage presence from a young age who becomes a world-wide sensation and mysteriously vanishes, leaving behind a rabid fan-base (who refer to themselves as the Wolf Pack, a reference to Volk’s last name being the Russian word for wolf), and a large portion of the general population all clamoring for answers. Montimore uses newspaper clippings, tabloid articles, email exchanges and podcasts to explore Volk’s tempestuous career, and reserves traditional prose for relaying Sasha’s experiences as she has lived for years under the microscope created by interest in Violet and her career. The result is a mostly unflattering look at the lengths and depths to which those spurred by personal interest will go to find answers to which they may feel entitled, but actually have no right. She illustrates the capriciousness of fame and how everything in entertainment is driven by the money. Sasha also shows the downsides of fame, or being fame adjacent, through years of people parsing every word she says and attributing unintended meanings, providing the same unwanted opinions when she says nothing, and how, often times, there is simply no way to win when someone who has never sought the spotlight suddenly finds themselves under its glare.
Montimore also cautions how childhood slights and misunderstandings can grow, and sometimes fester, into nearly unbridgeable gulfs. All of this infused with a nearly tangible sense of wonder and magic. Montimore has herself, pulled off the nearly impossible, a sophomore novel that is every bit as good, if not better, to her debut!
Read an interivew with the author here.