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The Book Of Two Ways

by Jodi Picoult

Library Journal On a plane about to crash-land, Dawn Edelstein finds herself thinking not about her husband but about Wayne Armstrong, whose work as an archaeologist unearthing ancient burial sites was something she had aspired to as well. On the ground, she's offered transportation to the location of her choice and must decide whether to head home or head for Egypt to reconnect with Wayne and perhaps pick up her research on a book mapping the afterlife. With side-by-side plots.

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Kirkus An Egyptologist-turned–hospice worker contemplates the mysteries of fate, mortality, and love. Picoult’s obsession here is the power of choices and what can happen when they are made under pressure. Dawn, a graduate student in Egyptology, is abruptly called back to Boston from a dig in Egypt by a family emergency. Her mother, who raised her and her brother, Kieran, alone, is in hospice, dying. This death and other circumstances conspire to derail Dawn’s cherished career—now she must raise Kieran, who is only 13. Security is offered by Brian, a physicist at Harvard, whom she marries after discovering she's pregnant. For 15 years, she curates a different life than the one she had planned. She’s now a “death doula,” a concierge hospice worker contracted by the moribund to help wind up loose ends. For Dawn’s client Win, winding up involves getting in touch with a lost love, abandoned for another life. Win’s situation evokes in Dawn renewed longing for her own lost love, Wyatt, an English earl she left behind at the dig. When fault lines emerge in her marriage and teenage daughter Meret is being extra surly, might-have-beens beckon. The nonlinear narrative ricochets between Dawn’s Boston life and her sojourns—past and present—in Egypt. The chronology can be confusing—and, in the case of the prologue, deliberately misleading, it seems. There are no datelines or other guideposts except for periodic headings like "Water/Boston” and “Land/Egypt.” Water and Land reference the “Two Ways,” alternate routes to the afterlife in Egyptian mythology. Whether on death and dying, archaeology, or quantum physics, Picoult’s erudition overload far exceeds the interests of verisimilitude or theme. Do lectures on multiverses bring us any closer to parsing Dawn’s epiphanous epigram—“We don’t make decisions. Our decisions make us”? This much is clear: The characters’ professions are far better defined than their motivations. A midlife crisis story stifled by enough material for several TED talks. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Kirkus An Egyptologist-turnedhospice worker contemplates the mysteries of fate, mortality, and love.Picoults obsession here is the power of choices and what can happen when they are made under pressure. Dawn, a graduate student in Egyptology, is abruptly called back to Boston from a dig in Egypt by a family emergency. Her mother, who raised her and her brother, Kieran, alone, is in hospice, dying. This death and other circumstances conspire to derail Dawns cherished careernow she must raise Kieran, who is only 13. Security is offered by Brian, a physicist at Harvard, whom she marries after discovering she's pregnant. For 15 years, she curates a different life than the one she had planned. Shes now a death doula, a concierge hospice worker contracted by the moribund to help wind up loose ends. For Dawns client Win, winding up involves getting in touch with a lost love, abandoned for another life. Wins situation evokes in Dawn renewed longing for her own lost love, Wyatt, an English earl she left behind at the dig. When fault lines emerge in her marriage and teenage daughter Meret is being extra surly, might-have-beens beckon. The nonlinear narrative ricochets between Dawns Boston life and her sojournspast and presentin Egypt. The chronology can be confusingand, in the case of the prologue, deliberately misleading, it seems. There are no datelines or other guideposts except for periodic headings like "Water/Boston and Land/Egypt. Water and Land reference the Two Ways, alternate routes to the afterlife in Egyptian mythology. Whether on death and dying, archaeology, or quantum physics, Picoults erudition overload far exceeds the interests of verisimilitude or theme. Do lectures on multiverses bring us any closer to parsing Dawns epiphanous epigramWe dont make decisions. Our decisions make us? This much is clear: The characters professions are far better defined than their motivations. A midlife crisis story stifled by enough material for several TED talks. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Book list Fifteen years after her mother's death led Dawn Edelstein to veer away from the career she was pursuing as an Egyptologist, she's forced to face the past she left behind. Mostly happily married to Brian, a theoretical physicist who ponders the existence of parallel lives, and the mother of self-conscious teen Meret, Dawn has been working as a death doula to help dying clients make the transition as smoothly as possible. But then she suddenly finds herself forced to confront her still powerful feelings for her first love, Wyatt Armstrong, a dashing English Egyptologist who went from being her rival to her lover during an excavation. Dawn's what-if crisis prompts her to a soul-searching journey halfway across the world to discover whether the career and the man she left behind are truly her past. As she did in the superior A Spark of Light (2018), Picoult plays with the novel's narrative structure in a way that risks leaving readers feeling perplexed or even tricked. Nonetheless, they will find heady themes to consider.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The best-selling Picoult's fans will be more than ready for this puzzle of a novel.

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal In Picoult's parallel-narrative novel, death doula Dawn Edelstein survives a plane crash, and when asked by the airline where she would like to go, rather than home to her husband and family in Boston, she chooses Egypt. After her near-death experience, Dawn realizes the wholeness of her life depends on not burying her past. Fifteen years earlier, as a graduate student, she left an archaeological dig after receiving a call telling her that her mother was dying. She walked away from a promising career as an Egyptologist studying The Book of Two Ways, the first known map of the afterlife, and from her lover, Wyatt Armstrong, who was working alongside her in Egypt. With vivid, descriptive prose and extensive research, Picoult's portrayal of the intersection of lives, whether in the present or with ancient souls, is a believable premise. This tale can be seen as magical, in the sense that magic encompasses envisioning and believing in what we can't actually see but can sense, feel, and guide others through. VERDICT Similar to Alice Hoffman's depiction of complex family ties, Picoult's latest (after A Spark of Light) stretches the importance of recognizing our bonds to those we love. Highly recommended for open-minded readers. [See Prepub Alert, 3/18/20.]—Susan Anton, Yellow Springs, OH

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Picoult (A Spark of Life) explores age-old questions about a possible parallel universe in this shrewd tale. The life of narrator Dawn McDowell, a specialist in the ancient Egyptian coffin text the Book of Two Ways, has taken two paths, indicated by alternating chapter titles. In “Water/Boston,” Dawn is a death doula facing an impasse in her marriage to quantum mechanics professor Brian Edelstein, after he missed his daughter’s birthday to spend time with an adoring student. The “Land/Egypt” path begins with Dawn’s life before Brian, when she was on a PhD track as an Egyptologist, worked at a Yale-sponsored dig, and developed a connection with fellow student Wyatt Armstrong. In the present, Dawn returns to Egypt to see if she can pick up the life with Wyatt she left behind, and the trip is described in two ways that mirror one another with a few key differences. Along the way, Picoult unloads a great deal of info on quantum mechanics, parallel worlds, Egyptian history, religion and hieroglyphics, the machinations of archeological digs, and the process of dying. The dual-life construct can be confusing, and readers may find it not sufficiently explained, but Dawn’s story offers keen insight on the limits of love. Picoult’s fans will appreciate this multifaceted, high-concept work. (Sept.)

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