There is no arguing that Jodi Picoult is one of the greatest writers of our time. I mean, can you argue that? I read so much that I have several ways to measure in my mind what makes an incredible author.
First of all, are their books memorable? When you read as much as I do, I literally forget about some books the moment I’m finished with them. And at times, these are books I really enjoyed reading. They were a welcome distraction, but I just consumed them and moved on.
Jodi Picoult’s books have never been that. My Sister’s Keeper is one of my favorite books of all time. Because it gave me all the feels (and honestly, I’m kind of an insensitive person.) But also because it was just freaking amazing. I’m sorry, if you want to argue that, find someone else to argue with. I don’t even want to hear it. But that’s not the only book I read years and years ago that I haven’t forgotten about. The Pact, Change of Heart, Perfect Match. Need I go on to prove my point?
Another way I judge a writer’s work is by if it makes me feel real human emotion (see above.) Anyone who can make me laugh, cry, break into a cold sweat. I will buy their book everytime.
And that brings me to the last criteria that I can think of as I sit here tonight. Are the books meaty? Do the characters make sense as real people? Did the author have to do a lot of research to convincingly write this book? It’s clear Picoult does this. Take today’s selection, The Book of Two Ways. She had to conduct all kinds of research into Ancient Egyptian tombs and archaeology to pull this one off. It feels authentic. Her research shows.
But I’ll stop fan girling. Let’s get to the review.
From the Publisher:
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 destination is to fly home, but she could take another path: 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?
We meet Dawn in the middle of a nightmare. A plane crash. There’s no time to think or strategize about your next move, or even to think about the fact that the plane is crashing. At this point, everything is involuntary. And as Dawn’s life flashes before her eyes, we see Wyatt. A strapping archaeologist and academic she left behind in Egypt years ago. The one who got away.
And I have to wonder, how does one allow a man like Wyatt just slip away? But as we get to know Dawn more, we realize that life isn’t easy. It’s complicated. And even though he was everything she ever wanted, she didn’t quite realize it and probably suffered from some type of imposter syndrome.
So, instead of living her life abroad as an archaeologist, doing ground-breaking research, she instead settles into life as the wife of a scientist, and an entrepreneur, owning her own death doula business. It’s Picoult for sure. Because that sounds a little far fetched to me that this is all ordinary, but the way she writes, Dawn might as well be my next door neighbor she seems so normal.
But it’s clear she settled. Because why would you choose the “safe” life when such an exciting existence was possible. Or is that maybe what we all do, or most of us? Because maybe the excitement will only take us so far before everything crashes and burns?
The Book of Two Ways was a good read and an interesting meditation on life. What we dream, what we hope for, and how we view our past. Always wondering, what if, always glamourizing the road not taken. But it wasn’t taken for a reason, right?
I definitely recommend this one to Picoult fans. The only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars is because personally, it wasn’t my favorite of hers. But still a well-written and much needed escape from our everyday right now. Special thanks to Random House and Netgalley for a e-galley in exchange for my honest review. This one is out September 22, get your copy!