You Were Here by Jodi Picoult
11/30/21; 336 pages
Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult is a highly recommended novel of two alternate realities set during the pandemic.
Diana O’Toole is an associate specialist at Sotheby’s and knows
she and her boyfriend, Finn, a surgical resident, will soon be
engaged. They have planned to leave NYC for a two week vacation to the Galápagos in
March of 2020. Just before they are scheduled to leave, Finn
breaks the news that he can't take the time off from the hospital due to the
pandemic. He encourages Diana to go without him, so she does and
is subsequently locked down on an island with little to no WiFi
access. She ends up having a woman offer her a place to stay.
Diana proceeds to make friends with the locals and even manages to
see and experience the local sites. While there some of Finn's
email messages get through and she reads about how overwhelming and trying his
experiences are while working at the hospital in NYC during the increase
of hospitalized Covid patients. Then something happens and Diana's perception and reality completely change.
There is no question that Picoult can write novels that will hold your attention from beginning to end and introduce some contemporary penitent on-topic subject in them. It's what she does best and she is known for her issue-driven plots. This time out it is Covid. Wish You Were Here is an emotionally complex, perceptive, and though provoking novel as it covers several issues. The first half of the novel is a stark contrast from the second half, and is also a very different narrative although some of the issues occur in both the first and second half. Characters are well developed, flawed individuals but sympathetic and vulnerable in both halves of the novel.
The twist in the middle of the novel changes everything and makes it a
vastly different novel from the first half of the book. Variations of
the big twist
in the novel have been done numerous
times before this in TV shows, books, and movies. Certainly it was
a shocking surprise, but also an eye-rolling
experience as it has always been in every other time it has used.
The new variation on this well
used plot device was setting the story during the pandemic and
lock down. (It was too soon for this novel and quite frankly most
of the novel read like pandemic porn to me, someone who was
working throughout the whole lock down.)
Most fans will love it, and it would make for lively book club discussions, but for others this may not resonate as much as some of Picoult's other novels.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Ballantine Books.
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