Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Book of Two Ways

The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult
9/22/20; 432 pages
Penguin Random House  

The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult is a highly recommended novel about the choices we make and the regrets in life, along with two possible futures.

Dawn Edelstein is on a plane when it is announced that passengers need to prepare for a crash landing. Dawn, who has been married to Brian for fifteen years, thinks not of her husband, but of Wyatt Armstrong, her first love. She last saw him fifteen years ago in Egypt on an archaeological dig site where the two were working. Doubts are suddenly raised that she should be with Wyatt.

In her current life she and Brian have a fifteen year old daughter, Meret, and she would have said they have a good life. Brian is a physics professor and Dawn is working as a death doula, where she helps those who are dying. But she still wonders what her life would have been if she hadn't had to rush back to the states for her dying mother. What if she had returned to Egypt and Wyatt and got her PhD in Egyptology? What if fate is offering her a second chance?

The novel consists of two possible futures narrative and follows those timelines. The first option is for Dawn to stay with her family and continue on with the life they have together. The second would be to return to Egypt, Wyatt, and the archaeological dig site she was working at to continue her research on the Egyptian The Book of Two Ways, which is a map of the afterlife. Then, on the two timelines the novel explores the question what does a life well lived look like? Dawn, who as a death doula helps ease people into their death has been immersed in this question since she was first first studying The Book of Two Ways.

Obviously, Picoult is an accomplished writer so the quality of the writing is excellent. If there are any faults in The Book of Two Ways it is the overabundance of information about Egyptology. She inundates the readers with facts and figures and timelines, which is all interesting, but a little goes a long way. This is combined with too much additional information about what a death doula does and stories about helping people die. I'm not sure if it is the overwhelming stressors of the current year, but it was all a bit too much. Even the choices and regrets Dawn suddenly is faced with in regards to her life while looking at her current life with Brian and her previous relationship with Wyatt is enough of a complicated, emotionally complicated examination.

Characters are well-developed and they all have strengths and flaws in their depiction. It is a character driven novel, though, and clearly makes the point that there are often no good, perfect choices in life. This is a novel about the Egyptian Book of Two Ways and a person's life regarding two different paths that her life could have taken.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.