Tag Archives: jodi picoult

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.

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult: Not one of her better books. There are a few things you can count on in your average Picoult novel: a family or two with teenage children, police and/or lawyers, at least one romance, and a heaping helping of dysfunction. I get the impression that Picoult reads a headline and decides to write a story about it. Which is fine, but this book’s Weighty Topic is school shootings, which reads a lot like a cross between We Need to Talk About Kevin and a Law & Order episode, with a generous sprinkling of high school stereotypes. The main characters were the shooter and his mother, the shooter’s crush and her mother (a judge) and boyfriend (a bully/jock), and the detective. The whole story was just so tragic that I stopped caring how things turned out. It didn’t help that I called the twist ending around halfway through the book. I’ve read some excellent books by Picoult; this just didn’t happen to be one of them.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Pact by Jodi Picoult

The Pact by Jodi Picoult (unabridged audiobook read by George Guidall): The Golds and the Hartes are neighbors and best friends. Their children, Chris Harte and Emily Gold, are raised practically as siblings, and start dating seriously as teenagers. As the story opens, Emily dies from a gunshot wound to the head and Chris claims it was a botched double suicide attempt. Soon after, Chris is on trial for the murder of his girlfriend. There’s some interesting discussion of how well parents can really know their teenage children and some decent drama between the two families, but for the most part it’s pretty unconvincing. The parents are remarkably unwilling to ask obvious questions, and I find it hard to believe that Chris and Emily would have been so tight-lipped for so long. This is one of Picoult’s books I would recommend skipping, especially since several of her other works are so excellent.

Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult

Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult (unabridged audiobook): Delia Hopkins has a pretty ordinary life in Wexton, New Hampshire, that gets turned upside down overnight when her father is arrested for having kidnapped her during a custody visit 28 years ago. The twisty plot and complex character relationships are revealed slowly and deliberately, hooking me from the first chapter. This is my second Picoult book, and like the other (My Sister’s Keeper), it is told in a series of first-person narratives, including Delia, her father, her mother, her fiancee, and her best friend. Each character is read by a different person, all of whom were quite good with the exception of Delia, who was almost painful to listen to. Luckily, the story was good enough that I still got sucked in despite her awkward reading. If the two I’ve read are at all representative of quality, I will definitely be picking up more of Picoult’s books in the future.

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult: I finished this book on an airplane, all hunched over in seat 16D, hoping my hair would disguise the fact that I was totally bawling. I haven’t cried at a book in many years, though I knew this one would probably be a tear-jerker from the beginning. After all, it’s a premise straight from a Lifetime Original Movie: Kate is diagnosed with a rare and particularly nasty form of leukemia at age 2, and after much deliberation her parents decide to concieve a genetically engineered child to be a perfect match for their sick daughter. And so Anna is born for her umbilical cord, her blood, her bone marrow. As the story begins, Anna is 13 years old and has decided that she doesn’t want to be an automatic donor anymore.

It’s a brilliantly written book, but very hard to take sometimes. Picoult did an excellent job of portraying the heartache of being part of a family wiuth a sick child without getting too sappy, too outrageous, or too grandiose. Make no mistake, this is a book full of Big Questions about the sanctity of life versus control over one’s own body, but it doesn’t beat you over the head with it or force the reader to take a certain side. It’s one of those rare stories that put me in the shoes of several characters that are (fortunately) completely alien to me while still allowing me to make up my own mind about their actions. It gave me quite a bit to think about, and that’s some of the highest praise I can give any book.

I won’t promise that everyone will like this book. A lot of people will see it as nothing more than a weepy family drama and dismiss it out of hand. But it does raise some serious issues, issues most of us – especially with the continued advances in medical technology – will have to face someday: when is it time to stop trying and start saying goodbye?

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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