Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult

Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult (unabridged audiobook read by Cassandra Campbell; 17 hours 20 min on 15 discs): When Paige was five years old, her mother left, abandoning her and her father suddenly one night. The story opens with Paige, as an adult, camped out on her own front lawn, barred by her husband from entering the house or seeing their infant son. Slowly, through flashbacks and memories, we learn about Paige’s childhood, her abortion as a teenager, her flight to Boston after high school, and her fast-paced relationship with medical student Nicholas and his affluent parents. As a wannabe sketch artist myself, I was drawn to Paige’s love for drawings and her mysterious talent for incorporating other people’s secrets into their portraits without realizing it or understanding its significance. I was also a little spooked by Paige’s early experiences with motherhood, as I imagine I would act the same way. My favorite character, however, was Astrid. She started out as a one-dimensional snob of a wicked mother-in-law, but later revealed herself to be an actual human being.

The story itself is just the sort of glurge I’ve come to expect from Picoult, but felt less like she’d come up with the plot from reading a couple of sensational headlines. No kidnapping or murder or suicide or courtroom scenes – just family drama. Sure, most of the conflict came from people not talking to each other (a pet peeve of mine), but I was more patient with that this time around, given how extraordinarily unapproachable Nicholas (whom I imagine as looking like Neal Caffrey) was. I wouldn’t want to talk to him either. In short, this book was decent but nothing spectacular.

A note on the audio version: Campbell was a good choice as narrator, with her natural voice seeming to channel Paige’s soft-spoken angst, while also handling Nicholas’s fury, Patrick’s Irish brogue, and Astrid’s aristocratic air without resorting to caricatures.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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