Book Review: Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult
Title: Wish You Were Here
Author: Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date: 25th November 2021
If your life was going perfectly to plan, would you risk everything to change it?
Diana O’Toole’s life is going perfectly to plan. At twenty-nine, she’s up for promotion to her dream job as an art specialist at Sotheby’s and she’s about to fly to the Galapagos where she’s convinced her surgeon boyfriend, Finn, is going to propose.
But then the virus hits New York City and Finn breaks the news: the hospital needs him, he has to stay. But you should still go, he insists. And reluctantly, she agrees.
Once she’s in the Galapagos, the world shuts down around her, leaving Diana stranded – albeit in paradise. Completely isolated, with only intermittent news from the outside world, Diana finds herself examining everything that has brought her to this point and wondering if there’s a better way to live.
But not everything is as it seems . . .
Ever since I read My Sister’s Keeper years ago, I have been a fan of Jodi Picoult books and she is an author I’d always buy the book without focussing on the blurb, but I did have my concerns about reading about the pandemic while cases are still high and the surrounding emotions are still raw. I needn’t have worried; I loved this book.
I was hooked with the opening scene with its fantastic imagery of the Diana’s father restoring the painting on the Grand Central Terminal ceiling. I knew from how Diana saw the world and her love of art I’d enjoy getting to know her better.
This novel is a tale of two halves and highlights the different experiences people had depending on the location, the depth of infection in the area and people’s reaction to it as a whole. The first chapters with Diana in the Galapagos islands were true escapism with the calm, stunning location and sense of community leaping off the page, making them a joy to read despite the climatic threat in the background. Conversely Finn’s experience trapped in New York facing the harsh realities of being on the frontline in the pandemic were heart breaking and eye opening. This novel does not shy away from the cruelty and horror of the disease which made for powerful but disturbing reading. For this reason, I think at the moment Wish You Were Here will be a marmite book – some people will love it and others who have been deeply touched by the virus will find it too close to home. In time it will gain more readers and become an important reflection on the realities of the last couple of years.
The Jodi Picoult twist came as a shock and drew me in further. It was fascinating and made me long to dig deeper, I wish I could chat more about it but that would be a huge spoiler. You’ll have to wait until you’ve read it and find like-minded people to discuss it with.
Would I recommend?
Yes, this is an emotional and powerful book with a character finding her way in unfamiliar territories and has a unique Jodi Picoult twist. Not many authors would get away with a novel based on the pandemic while it is still raging but she’s managed it with great characterisation, sensitivity and the clever use of balancing the harsh and traumatic scenes set in New York with the calmer escapism of the idyllic islands. It’s a book for my forever shelf.
Jodi Picoult is the author of twenty five internationally bestselling novels, including MY SISTER’S KEEPER, HOUSE RULES and SMALL GREAT THINGS, and has also co-written two YA books with her daughter Samantha van Leer, BETWEEN THE LINES and OFF THE PAGE. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children.
Her most recent adult novel, A SPARK OF LIGHT first published in the UK on 30th October 2018, and was a #1 Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller
Thank you Hodder & Stoughton for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.