Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

Wish You Were Here: A Novel: Picoult, Jodi: 9781984818416: Amazon.com: Books

It is March, 2020, and Diane may have just made the faux pas of her career.  She’d been on such a positive trajectory, climbing the ladder in the art business world just as she’d planned.  In fact, most of her life was going as planned – her life with Finn, her boyfriend, their New York, fast-paced, busy lives — really everything.  But now, who knows?  This would be the perfect time to get away to the Galapagos, as she and Finn had planned,  Unfortunately, it doesn’t look as though Finn will be able to get away, as this novel coronavirus has coopted his surgical training, and all hands are on deck for caring for Covid patients at the hospital.  Should she go on her own, as he’s suggested? The next few months will turn their lives upside-down, as they have done for all of us – but not nearly in the way you will expect!

When I realized that this book was taking place during Covid, I was apprehensive about reading it.  We’ve all been through it and we’re all pretty over it – to say the very least!  The masks, the distancing, the isolation – enough already!!  

But actually, this story has a novel plot line, with ample twists and turns that keep it fresh.  Covid is only a part of the story.  There are gorgeous natural scenes in the Galapagos that engage our imagination.  There are characters who are experiencing familial issues that are unrelated to the pandemic that will distract you from thinking about your mask and your disinfectant.  And there is deep discussion about art that always highlights our humanity.  

Most importantly, this narrative suggests we strive to seek our own silver lining from the pandemic.  Diane finds hers, in her relationship with her mother, in her self-discovery, in her appreciation of living in the moment.  While there has been devastating loss, unspeakable fractionation within our population, and the unearthing of so much injustice during this pandemic, there has also been newfound light.  There has been a slowing down, a “time out,” so to speak, during which we’ve had a chance to reevaluate and reassess.  There has been more intensive time with some loved ones, even while there has been time away from others, which can give us time to appreciate each other on a whole different level.  There’s been time to appreciate what we do have.  

Yes, this may all sound a little pollyannish, but I am, at the end of the day, an optimist.  It helps me to find something good even in things that are hard.   

How exactly is this expressed in the story?  I guess you’ll have to read it to find out…!



The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult

The Book of Two Ways: A Novel: Picoult, Jodi: 9781984818355: Amazon.com:  Books

Dawn, is a death doula, one who gently and passionately escorts those who are dying through this process. She is also married and the mother of Meret. Right now, though, she is on a plane, and all of that other stuff means nothing because this plane is going down and the only one she is thinking about is an old flame, Wyatt. What does this signify? Where does her heart really belong?

As usual, Picoult has managed to entangle her readers (or at least this one) in another intricately woven fabric of rich characters who walk off of the page and into your heart. As Dawn wrestles between her past, red passion for Wyatt and her current, serene comfort with her husband Brian, we feel this wrenching tension as if it is our own. When Meret struggles, we struggle. When her dying patient declines, we decline. The effect of this is that Picoult is able to render the reader sympathetic to every perspective, and as Dawn digs deeper and deeper into her quandary, we are more and more wedded to every possible outcome.

Likewise, as in her other books, Picoult has done her due diligence in her research – and here, it is on the topic of Ancient Egypt. Here we learn about this civilization’s many rites and rituals celebrating the dead and dying. We learn about hieroglyphic translations and the symbolism of the art inside their tombs. We learn that this art tells the story of the life of the individual who is buried there, and, moreover, how Egyptologists learn about the culture and society from these findings.

We also learn of a beautiful way of leaving this world. I’d never heard of a death doula, but it is a lovely idea and sounds like a wonderful luxury. To have someone to attend to the “business” of dying – not the medical issues, mind you — but the messiness of it. Taking care of your last wishes, ensuring that you get to see the people you want to see, ensuring your matters are wrapped up, having someone to hold your hand as you take your last breath. How precious is that.

This is yet another incredible work by Jodi Picoult. As readers of this blog know, I am a huge fan. Some argue that she has a formula in her work – and I see that, but for me it works. She develops intricate plots that challenge current complex issues, she creates beautiful, human, complex characters, and she writes them witty dialogue that always keeps me surprised. What more can you ask for in a novel?


I am curious to know what others think of the ending…. I was surprised and initially very disappointed at this one, actually. My first reaction was that it was a cop-out. However, the more I thought about it, the more I believe it was fully intentional and not just avoidance. Going along with the theme of “two ways” and Brian’s physics theory, maybe she imagines there is a way for her to be choosing both? Meret certainly got 2 dads here, as it happened, right? Or maybe it is just symbolic of how so many times, we want to go in 2 directions at the same time and decisions in life are hard. But these decisions often impact the ultimate direction of our lives in so many ways, setting us on a path that we cannot possibly foresee.

A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

spark of light

Immediately on learning that both his daughter and his sister are inside the abortion clinic where a gunman is holding hostages, Hugh knows he should recuse himself from the situation and not be the hostage negotiator.  He knows he cannot be objective; but nor can he allow anyone else to do this job either.  And what are they doing in there anyway?  How did he not know they were there and why?  What did this say about his relationship with his daughter?

And inside there is a bloody scene.  The gunman has killed people but now he’s taking stock of his situation and wondering what comes next.  How did he get here?  It wasn’t supposed to be this messy.  Or this real.

The whole story is told over the course of a day, and actually told mostly in reverse.  We learn what happens, mostly, and then we hear the back stories, the histories of each of the characters who create the scene of what makes up this dramatic story of A Spark of Light.  The story is steeped in fact.  Characters who harass women entering the clinic (whether or not they are actually having an abortion or going there for a PAP smear)  but  who may have had abortions themselves, when it has suited them.  Single abortion clinics trying to survive to accommodate the needs of the women in an entire state, and trying to fulfill the rules imposed mostly by rich, white men on mostly impoverished women of color.  Characters like Dr. Louie Ward, depicted intentionally like the real-life hero, Dr. Willie Parker, an abortion provider who does so because of his Christian faith, not in spite of it.

In true Jodi Picoult fashion, this story is shared by many of the characters.  It is told from the eyes of each character, and built gradually by adding block by block, minute by minute, how each character perceives the passing of the day and of the experience.  We hear each opinion on abortion, religious and otherwise.  We hear each legal perspective and each is given credence, such that each perspective can be respected.  We also see that these women’s clinics serve as much more than abortion clinics as well. We also develop an appreciation for the various and desperate situations that lead women to require their procedures at a women’s health clinic.

This is an important book and serves as so much more than just a piece of fiction. Jodi Picoult never shies away from difficult subject matters and here conquers yet another.  In my opinion, she’s done another great job.

Another MUST READ!

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult


Love seems to actually trump hate in this frighteningly timely novel by Jodi Picoult.   It begins when a Black labor and delivery nurse, Ruth, begins to care for the baby of a White supremacist couple and the couple insist that she be removed from their case because of her race. As it would happen, Ruth is alone with the baby when the baby stops breathing.  Should she touch the baby and save him, as she is trained to do?  Should she abide by the racist rules the hospital has imposed at the request of this repugnant couple?  What happens next sets Ruth and the couple and ultimately, Ruth’s lawyer, Kennedy, on a road to grappling with race as it is seen from all perspectives.

Little did I know that I’d be reading this amidst the worst campaign and most devastating election outcome in the history of the United States.  The spillage of racism, misogyny, and bigotry that has poured out of the mouth of the Republican party nominee and his bedfellows has unleashed the underbelly of this country and its darkest side.  The election result has spawned a crippling shadow over my whole universe and I know this has been true for over half of this country.  We are embarrassed to call ourselves American, as it associates us with this new, evil and mean rhetoric in the eyes and ears of the rest of the world.  This is not the country I have known to be the home of the free.

And so it was, amidst my deepest disappointment that has sent me into a physical nausea that I cannot shake, that I read how Kennedy, seeking to defend Ruth in her ultimate trial, really tries to understand the day to day psychological beating that Ruth endures as a Black woman in a white man’s world.   The small slips, the subtle differences in perception, and the more overt signs of difference from which Kennedy is protected because of the color of her skin.  And while the 2 butt heads, they also come together because of the genuine efforts to try to understand each other, which is the foundation of the beginning of actually understanding each other.

Unfortunately for this story, love trumps hate in sort of a too perfect way by the end, so that it becomes a little fairytale-like as an ending.  I pray for this country, though, that we can reach an understanding that even remotely approximates this ending – for the good of our present and the good of our future.

Lone Wolf

Lone Wolf, by Jody Picoult.

I LOVE Jody Picoult.  She has the uncanny ability to delve into the stickiest of ethical dilemmas and to elicit sympathy on the part of the reader toward each side.  I believe it is because she creates such beautifully complex characters, each of whom you want to win.

And in this book, she does it again.

The book revolves around a man who in order to fully study the habits of wolves, leaves his family to live in the wild among them, becoming part of a pack of wolves who take him in as one of their family.    After he returns to his own, human family, he has difficulty fitting in and circumstances lead to the breaking up of his family.  When he later suffers a severe head injury and is on life support, his son and daughter take up a legal battle to determine who will make the decision of whether or not to end life support.

In addition, throughout the book, the author weaves in various facts about wolves which make them appear more human than we are.  Each tidbit is actually quite profound and provides a metaphor for what is happening to the characters in the story.   I’m no naturalist, but I do find these facts very interesting.  Each little factoid also serves to increase the suspense in the book with each further delay in the progression of the story.

This is yet another craftily woven story by Jody Picoult.  You easily come to know and love her characters, you empathize with each side because each side is made valid, and you can’t help staying up late — no matter how late it is and no matter how important your work is the next day! — because you have to find out what happens (and there are a few major surprises!)

While some say Ms. Picoult has something of a formula, I say she uses what works —  and it always does!