The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult

I received an ebook version of The Book of Two Ways from the publisher via Netgalley. This review forms my honest opinion.

Blurb

Dawn is a death doula, and spends her life helping people make the final transition peacefully.

But when the plane she’s on plummets, she finds herself thinking not of the perfect life she has, but the life she was forced to abandon fifteen years ago – when she left behind a career in Egyptology, and a man she loved.

Against the odds, she survives, and the airline offers her a ticket to wherever she needs to get to – but the answer to that question suddenly seems uncertain.

As the path of her life forks in two very different directions, Dawn must confront questions she’s never truly asked: What does a well-lived life look like? What do we leave behind when we go? And do we make our choices, or do our choices make us?

Two possible futures. One impossible choice.

Review

Jodi Picoult is one of my favourite authors. I’ve seen her three times in person during book tours and I cannot describe just how deeply I admire her. Incredibly eloquent and intelligent, I’m always in complete awe of her. So much so that when I actually got to talk to her, my words kind of mushed and fell out into sheer nonsense. Not the best impression. I’m only comforted by the fact that there were so many people there, that I would have been a blur.

I was so excited to see that this was coming out, and on my birthday too. It felt serendipitous. I even leapfrogged over several others in the tbr pile to read this as soon as I could.

The concept is brilliant. And something I mull over myself so often. Our lives are a series of decisions made and we are the outcome of those decisions. What if. How different could things be?

One of the things I love about Jodi Picoult novels are the depth of research. And The Book of Two Ways is no different. Dawn is a Death Doula, but was previously an Egyptologist, a subject which, therefore features. It doesn’t end there though. Her husband, Brian is also a Quantum Physicist, therefore quantum physics also gets a major look in. I don’t have a grounding in Egyptology, and my only education in quantum physics is from my obsession with the Marvel films, therefore it just felt….a lot. Perhaps it was just the effect of 2020 on my brain, but for the first time I felt that the concept and research overtook the real heart of the novel, and the characters became less important than the how and the why. For this reason it took me quite some time to connect with the characters and to actually care about what was happening. My mind was continually blown with an overload of information. For me, on this occasion it just felt to be too much and my early enjoyment of the book did suffer for it.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. Once I’d pushed through, I was as into the story as I would expect to be when reading a Jodi Picoult novel, and I absolutely loved it. But this thought niggles at me; if it were any other author – would I have stuck with it? In all honesty, I’m not sure. It really is a book of two halves, and I think it will be a novel that divides a lot of fans.

In short – whilst not my favourite Jodi Picoult novel, it is still a good novel. Though challenging in the beginning (and if you have a working interest in either subject, then you may find the novel much easier to get into) the second half made up for the initial struggle. I cannot deny that I love the concept though and I think it is one that I will perhaps revisit when the world is a little less up in the air and my reading brain is able to focus a little better.

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