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Wish You Were Here

by Jodi Picoult

Publishers Weekly Picoult’s beguiling page-turner revisits the premise of two alternate worlds, as explored in 2020’s The Book of Two Ways, this time with the Covid-19 pandemic as a backdrop. It’s March 13, 2020, in New York City, the day after Broadway theaters shut down because of a new contagious virus. Diana O’Toole, an associate specialist with Sotheby’s, is on the verge of closing a career-changing deal and expecting her boyfriend, Finn, to propose. But Finn, a surgeon, has just been informed he cannot take their planned Galápagos Islands vacation because the hospital needs all hands on deck for the predicted inundation of virus-infected patients. One couldn’t ask for more opposite places: the isolated Pacific Ocean islands with native iguanas, prehistoric turtles, and exotic flora and fauna, and the grim world of packed ICU wards, staff burnout, and the debilitating reality of an onslaught of deaths that cannot be stopped or prevented. In the Galápagos, Diana befriends a teenage girl, begins an affair with the girl’s father, and second-guesses her conformist, status-oriented life plans. While a major plot twist feels both contrived and implausible, it serves to examine how catastrophes can strain the characters’ relationships while time apart can inspire complex soul-searching. As always, Picoult is eminently readable, though even the author’s fans will find some of this wanting. (Nov.)

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Book list Picoult, a best-selling novelist always attuned to the zeitgeist, takes on the COVID-19 pandemic in this powerful novel. In March 2020, art specialist Diana O'Toole is on the cusp of selling a major painting for Sotheby's and getting engaged to her caring, handsome surgeon boyfriend, Finn. They have plane tickets to the Galápagos Islands, but when Finn's work at the hospital prevents him from leaving, he urges Diana to take the trip on her own. Diana arrives on Isabela Island just as it and the rest of the world closes down. Stranded, she is taken in by a kindly older woman and befriends a troubled 15-year-old, Beatriz, who is grappling with abandonment issues that Diana can relate to: both women's mothers walked away when they were children. Cut off from Finn save for emails he sends detailing the horrors he's enduring in the hospital as COVID-19 ravages New York, Diana grows ever closer to Beatriz and the teenager's handsome father, Gabriel. She also begins to question whether the goalposts she's set for herself still represent the direction she wants her life to take. Stealthily surprising and very moving, Picoult's latest, written while she was confined at home during the pandemic, taps into the trauma and uncertainty of 2020's global crisis. Absolutely a must-read.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Picoult's novels are always sure-bets for popular fiction readers, but she attains new heights in this keen and vivid pandemic drama.

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

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