Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult

Just when I think, I’ve read all of her books, I come across one more that I haven’t! And there is nothing that beats that feeling! I just love her books.

Delia Hopkins is happy, living in rural New Hampshire, with her daughter and fiancee and her widowed father who brought her up all by himself. She works as a search and rescue professional, assisted by her bloodhound. She has all that she holds dear, close by her, her daughter, father Andrew, fiance, Eric and close friend, Fitz. Her happy, peaceful is suddenly shattered when police lands up at her door step. Turns out that she had been kidnapped – by her own father. Everything she believed in seems to be a farce.

All she could do was ask Eric to defend her father. As the story unfolds, it throws Delia into the deep end. Everything she believed in, is now questioned. The father who was a devoted father turns out to be a kidnapper who stole her away from her own mother. What went wrong? What made her father do this – Are questions that haunt Delia. To add to it all, the mother she believed was dead, was very much alive. The mother who had been separated from her daughter for 28 years. Now a mother herself, Delia is in a tough position, of trying to believe the best of her dad, while trying to realign herself to the new truths that she discovers.

Typical of Picoult’s writings, the book handles situations that are emotionally tough, and makes the reader wonder how they would have handled such a situation. A tale of human weaknesses and reactions and relationships. Picoult spins tales that question boundaries. How far can a parent go to protect their child? Can anything justify the step, Andrew took. The characters are well formed, and the story grips you. A typical Jodi Picoult. I would definitely recommend it to Picoult fans.

Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult

‘Another Jodi Picoult’, I can hear some of you groaning 🙂

Yes, another one, and no more for a while, I suspect, because I think I have finally read all of hers so far.

Luke Warren and his 17 year old daughter Cara have been in a terrible car crash. Cara has  a horrible shoulder injury and Luke is in a coma. Cara wakes up to her mother Georgie(Luke’s ex wife) beside her and no sign of her dad. Georgie has already called Edward, their son, from Thailand. Luke is being given very slim chances of recovery by the doctors.

Edward had fled to Thailand after a disagreement with his dad, Luke. He has not been in contact with his sister or his father ever since. He is back for the first time after he left.

Luke is a wolf researcher, who looks after and lives with the captive wolves in the reserve. Cara, his daughter, lives with him since her mother had twins, and she felt more comfortable with her dad’s. Cara also holds a grudge against her older brother Edward for leaving the family and going away to Thailand. She blames her parents separating and divorcing on her brother’s departure. In her mind, none of this would have happened if Edward had not left.

Edward is Luke’s next of kin, since Cara is three months away from turning eighteen. Given that Luke is in a coma, with the doctor’s prognosis of little chance of him surviving and leading a normal life, Edward is asked to make the decision whether or not to pull the plug. Edward decides that his father would not want to have a vegetative exsitence, while Cara strongly disagrees. Edward feels, that a man like his dad, who was happiest with the wolves, happiest being outdoors, wouldn’t want to live on a machine. Cara, on the other hand  wants to keep her father alive, and believes that anything is possible. She believes that her father might recover, and that Edward is in a hurry to end his father’s life. She believes that her brother cannot possibly understand her father better than her after being away for six years, and having had no communication with him, in those years away.

They end up in court fighting to get appointed the next of kin for Luke. In true Jodi Picoult style, there are many threads running and a difficult decision to make. Luke, as he is perceived by the people whose lives he touched, is revealed. Cara, his daughter who idolized him. Georgie, his ex-wife, who found happiness with her now husband Joe. Edward, who has the biggest issues with his dad. Will Edward be unbiased in his decision? Can Cara make unbiased decisions for that matter? Can anybody be truly unbiased? And who would truly understand what Luke would have wanted.

The story of Luke’s living with the wolves in the wild, carries on as a parallel thread. That gives us a perspective of Luke’s life and motivations. Here is a man who lives a life which most of us cannot even begin to imagine. He went to live in the wild, becoming one of the wolves, part of the pack, eating raw meat, living like a wolf in the true sense. He seems to be a person far more at home with his wolf family than his human family. The expectations from his human family seems far more complex to him. He almost seems to have forgotten to live a human life.

He had been a  hero, appearing on TV, his wolves being his first priority, but like everybody else, a human, with his own flaws and problems.For his wife and son, they seem to come second to his wolves. For his daughter, he was a true hero – nothing anybody said,or believed, could detract from that, for her.

I think this is what I like about Picoult – all her characters are real, in the sense that every one of them have flaws, have deep secrets, and face tough moral dilemmas(although far tougher and complex ones that the rest of us might face).

The amount of research Picoult must have done for this book, is mind boggling. The details that she recounts, are amazing! In her foreword, she mentions that she realized that there is a person, Shaun Ellis, who actually lives among wolves. And he has written a memoir ‘The Man who lives with Wolves’. I think I will definitely be reading this book.

It is a beautiful story. Picoult adds her ingredients of moral dilemmas, which are difficult to work with, and blends it with emotions, perceptions, and lives of all her characters to make it a fascinating read. Another book which stays with you. Making you wonder, what one would do if faced with such a situation – having to decide when to let a loved one go.

Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

I never get hold of Jodi Picoults easily. There is a mile long waiting list for them, normally, so when I saw this one sitting in the ‘Just returned’ section, I grabbed it – quick, real quick.

Max and Zoe Baxter are about to have a baby. A much awaited for baby, who came after 5 cycles of IVF treatment, 2 miscarriages, and lots of heart break. Zoe is 28 weeks pregnant, at a baby shower organised for her, when she gets painful cramps, and is rushed to the hospital. They couldn’t find a heart beat for the baby, and she had to be induced to deliver her stillborn son. Heart-broken after the loss of the baby, all Zoe wants is to try for another baby, while all Max wants is a divorce. He has had enough.

The divorce left Zoe depressed, unhappy and with nothing to look forward to, while Max turns to alcohol. An alcoholic, he had stayed dry for a long time, but the loss of the baby and the end of their marriage pushed him over the edge. He discovers God, rather Church which saves him from self-destruction.

Zoe, in the meanwhile, is found to be suffering from cancer, and has had to undergo a hysterotomy and with that loses all hopes of having a baby, until she falls in love with Vanessa. They get married and realize that Zoe’s dream of becoming a mother can still come true. Zoe and Max still had three embryos from their last IVF cycle, and Vanessa could carry the baby, now that Zoe can’t.

Zoe gets in touch with Max to get his permission(both parents’ consent is required) to implant the embryos in Vanessa. To her shock and surprise, Max is a different person now. He has discovered God, a God who according to his church believes that same sex marriages are living in sin. So much so that they end up in court fighting for the right to use the embryo.

Sing You Home has so many aspects covered, Gay and Lesbian rights, the homophobia that is rampant in certain sections of society, the heartbreak that infertility brings.. It brings home to the reader, how difficult things can be to people going through such situations. How fair is it that a gay or a lesbian couple has to fight so hard for things that are considered natural for the rest of us – marriage, becoming parents, living a stigma free life, freedom to love and spend the rest of their life with the love of their life? Does having a different sexual orientation ban a person from these basic rights? Who defines normal?  what makes for a loving family? Can blind belief in religion(or rather interpretation of religion) distort our views?

The book also has a musical score with it. Zoe is a music therapist, and each chapter has a musical score we can listen to while reading – I did not read it with the music. I plan to buy the book, and read it again with the music. Picoult explains quite a bit about music therapy so that we, readers get an idea as to what it is all about.

Another wonderful book by Picoult. Her books never disappoint. I will certainly be reading it again. All the characters are well thought out and well etched out. Zoe’s wonderfully eccentric mother, Max’s conservative, super successful brother, the fanatical Pastor Clive..

Another book which will stay with you. Your heart breaks with Zoe’s, empathize with Vanessa’s insecurities and worries,  you understand how Max is caught between his faith and his doubts about right and wrong.. A book that I will definitely re-read. I would recommend it to anybody who likes Jodi Picoult books – another gem from her.

Second Glance by Jodi Picoult and a Challenge

One thing I find I rarely do is review the books I read. Mainly because I worry if I could do justice to the books and because I get lazy. Smita’s review challenge hopefully will motivate me to review the books I read. I would like to review at least 1 book every fortnight.

So here I go, signing up for Smita’s Let’s Review More n More books” Challenge.

 And my first review before the first week of the new year ends.

Jodi Picoult is one of my favourite authors and last week I discovered a book of hers that I had missed. For some reason, I was under the impression that I had already read Second Glance. Reading through the back cover, I realised that I had missed this one.

Ross Wakeman does not want to live. Ever since his fiancee died in a car accident, he has lost the will to live, but he seems to lead a charmed life. No matter what he does, he does not succeed in dying. All he wants is to join Aimee on the other side.

In desperation, he turns to ghost-hunting. He hopes to see Aimee’s ghost and is close to giving up hope. He ends up in an Abenaki burial ground, and from then on, nothing works as it normally does.

Meredith Oliver’s daughter Lucy is haunted by inexplicable nightmares. Nothing they do seems to matter.

Shelby lives an unimaginable life keeping her nine year old son away from the sun. He suffers from a life-threatening ‘allergy to sunlight’. She will do anything for her son. Ethan, her son, longs to fit in, to be normal.

How do these come together? You’ll have to read it to find out. It combines Picoult’s skill of weaving medical conditions , genetics, paranormal occurences, nail biting suspense, and ethical issues into her  stories makes it a wonderful read.  While this is not one of her best(in my opinion), but it still is un-put-downable. I read in a days time. I would give it a 4/5 simply because I have read better books from Picoult.

Handle with care – Book Review

Handle with care

By Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult’s writing always captivated me, even if I could not always agree with some of the protagonists.  Handle with care was no different. She picked up another sensitive issue and made it a very interesting read.

Charlotte and Sean O’Keefe after a lot of trying, conceive and they find that the baby, Willow, has a rare condition called  osteogenesis imperfecta. She is born with broken bones. And it can only get worse as she grows. A child who can break a bone if held incorrectly, who cannot be hugged, cuddled, unless with great care. A nurse manages to break a bone, right after she is born, by handling her wrong.

As Willow grows older, the stress on the family increases. Charlotte has an elder daughter Amelia, from a previous relationship, who feels the pressure of have a sibling who is so sick.The family’s finances are stretched and the circumstances have begun to take a toll on all of them.

Having had so many broken bones, it is mandatory for Willow’s parents to carry the certificate from her doctor which certifies that she has osteogenesis imperfecta. They forget to carry this to a trip to Disneyland and they are suspected of abusing their daughter. Having so many broken bones can only mean abuse.  After the disastrous Disneyland, Sean is all set to sue Disneyland and the hospital for the mental torture, when they are told that they have another option. They could sue their ob-gyn for not recognizing Willow’s condition early enough so that they could have opted for termination.

This would mean that Charlotte would have to sue her best friend and would have to stand up in court and say that she wishes that Willow was never born.

It was a very moving book to read. The kind of pain that Willow has to go through. The feelings that Amelia has to go through, having a mother who has little time for her, though she loves her wholeheartedly. Knowing that everything could go wrong with the slightest mistake. The stress that Charlotte and Sean’s relationship goes through. There are a lot of times when Charlotte comes through as rather mercenary, but again, I guess, someone in her position might just become that way.

It was a gripping read, which kept me absorbed till the last word – like all of Jodi Picoult’s books. It was a book that made me cry, made me thankful for all that I had. The simple pleasures of hugging a child, teaching her to walk, letting her fall, things which we take for granted, might be things which some may never be able to experience…