Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Book Review: The Book of Two Ways, by Jodi Picoult

For someone who makes a living through death, I haven't given a lot of thought to my own.

I have heard that when you are about to die, your life flashes before your eyes.

But I do not picture my husband, Brian, his sweater streaked with inevitable chalk dust from the old-school blackboards in his physics lab. Or Meret, as a little girl, asking me to check for monsters under the bed. I do not envision my mother, not like she was at the end or before that, when Kieran and I were young. 

Instead, I see him.

I'm a HUGE fan of Jodi Picoult's novels, and last week was my first time hearing about her new book, The Book of Two Ways. Surprisingly, I received an email inviting me to read it for my blog a day or two after that, which I was very excited about.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: The Book of Two Ways, by Jodi Picoult
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Small Great Things and A Spark of Light comes a riveting novel about the choices that alter the course of our lives.

Everything changes in a single moment for Dawn Edelstein. She’s on a plane when the flight attendant makes an announcement: Prepare for a crash landing. She braces herself as thoughts flash through her mind. The shocking thing is, the thoughts are not of her husband but of a man she last saw fifteen years ago: Wyatt Armstrong.

Dawn, miraculously, survives the crash, but so do all the doubts that have suddenly been raised. She has led a good life. Back in Boston, there is her husband, Brian, their beloved daughter, and her work as a death doula, in which she helps ease the transition between life and death for her clients.

But somewhere in Egypt is Wyatt Armstrong, who works as an archaeologist unearthing ancient burial sites, a career Dawn once studied for but was forced to abandon when life suddenly intervened. And now, when it seems that fate is offering her second chances, she is not as sure of the choice she once made.

After the crash landing, the airline ensures that the survivors are seen by a doctor, then offers transportation to wherever they want to go. The obvious option for Dawn is to continue down the path she is on and go home to her family. The other is to return to the archaeological site she left years before, reconnect with Wyatt and their unresolved history, and maybe even complete her research on The Book of Two Ways—the first known map of the afterlife.

As the story unfolds, Dawn’s two possible futures unspool side by side, as do the secrets and doubts long buried with them. Dawn must confront the questions she’s never truly asked: What does a life well lived look like? When we leave this earth, what do we leave behind? Do we make choices . . . or do our choices make us? And who would you be if you hadn’t turned out to be the person you are right now?

As always, Picoult does extensive research for her books, and this one is no different. Half of the book takes place in Egypt, where Dawn and her ex-boyfriend Wyatt worked fifteen years ago, as a grad student—half a lifetime ago for Dawn, who now lives in Boston with her husband, Brian, and 14-year-old daughter, Meret. Dawn no longer studies Egyptology; instead, she's a death doula, helping clients who are in the last stages of death.

I want to say more but to say more would be to spoil the minor twist, which I didn't realize until the beginning, and which pulled a This is Us fast one ... and that's all I'll say about that.

I will, however, say this: I haven't been reading as much as I used to lately, and I devoured this book in a matter of days. The only negative thing I can say about it is that the end does stretch on for a bit, but when it's a book by Picoult, I don't mind as much, and eventually everything was wrapped up.

Ideal movie casting:
Dawn: Natalie Portman
Wyatt: Gerard Butler (but with an English accent)
Brian: Johnny Galecki
Meret: Millicent Simmons, from A Quiet Place

4 stars out of 5.

Click here to pre-order - this book will be out on September 22, 2020.

*Disclosure: I received an e-galley of this book for reviewing. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.


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