Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Second Glance by Jodi Picoult

GENRE: drama/paranormal

When a plot of land is being developed in Vermont against the will of a local Native American tribe, strange things begin to happen - and Ross Wakeman, a paranormal investigator, is asked to get involved. He's a desperate drifter who's taken up ghost hunting in an effort to cross paths again with his fiancee, who died in a car crash eight years ago, but he has yet to experience anything even remotely paranormal. Then Ross meets Lia... As a seventy-year-old murder case is reopened, a shocking secret about a crime of passion long past is revealed.

This is the second Jodi Picoult novel I’ve read (the first one being The Pact) and I had another great Picoult experience. This is a drama with elements of the supernatural (focusing on ghosts) and it works so well. It was a truly enjoyable read and I could hardly put the book down.

The story features several very interesting and decidedly individualistic characters, some of them more in the forefront than others, but all of them very interesting. The protagonist is Ross Wakeman, a man who lost his fiancĂ©e Aimee in a car accident and has tried to join her (in death), but he just can’t die, which is his talent, or curse, depends on which way one sees it. There is his older sister Shelby Wakeman, a single mom who works in a library, loves big, sophisticated words, never goes out and has a son, Ethan, with XP (basically a severe allergy to the sun and just about any strong form of light), who knows he will die young, but then again maybe he won’t, so he tries to live each day as if it were his last. Eli Rochert is a smart, divorced cop who keeps dreaming about a beautiful woman and has a shocker when he sees her in real life. There is also Az Thompson, an ancient Abenaki Indian working as a night guard at Angel Quarry, and Spencer Pike, an old man dying in a home for older people. Quite some distance away live Ruby, her granddaughter Meredith, whose job is doing preimplantation genetic diagnosis and has no luck with men, and Meredith’s little daughter Lucy, who sees strange things, but no one believes her. On the surface, all these people have nothing to do with each other, but in reality they are bound together by a web of strange events and a tragic, unthinkable past. I am not exaggerating when I say that all these people are very much connected to one another.

The setting is a small town, Comtosook, in Vermont. Comtosook is a colourful town and the story begins when Comtosook becomes the setting of very strange, possibly supernatural events. Every day, the sky rains rose petals, people’s alarm clocks never ring, clocks stop at a certain hour, phone connections are all wrong, and there is talk of a ghost haunting the Pike property, the land Spencer Pike sold to a construction company and for which the Abenaki Indians claim that it is a sacred burial ground that should not be disturbed. Curiously, the strange phenomena begin to occur when the construction group begins to disturb the Pike property. Ross Wakeman, who’s been dabbling in ghost hunting in the hope of seeing his Aimee again, becomes involved and a whole string of events happen, releasing shocking revelations from the past, and when Ross finds love again in the mysterious Lia, his world begins to fall part again for a very startling reason.

Picoult handled both the past and the present very well, as well as reality and the paranormal. All these parts were nicely balanced and cleverly interconnected. In the forefront is a family drama and all those individuals trying to find meaning in their lives, which is really beautifully written, but Picoult also tackled a topic that I had never heard of before, but I’m glad she shed some light on it. I won’t go into it too deep to avoid spoilers, but I can say that Picoult wrote about eugenics in Vermont, which was widely popular in the 1930s, the time in which the past of the novel takes place. Eugenicists believed that subcultures, among them Native Americans (whom they actually called Gypsies), and the poor and “feebleminded” should not procreate anymore, so that the nation could avoid taking care of the lowly individuals and, simply put, they just wanted to clean the nation, which is horrible. They did the “cleaning” by way of “voluntary” sterilization. Hitler was inspired by the program of American eugenicists, which makes eugenics even more horrible, since it was – opposed to Hitler’s ways – just a more civilised form of genocide. I was really shocked to learn that such programs ever existed, but I am glad I got to read about it through Picoult. She really handled this dark stain in the history of America well and I like the message: this has to be spoken about, so that the shame will go away. Namely, some of the victims of eugenics, as well as the scientists, are still alive and both groups are more or less ashamed of what was happening in the 1920s and 30s, so this mustn’t be forgotten, or it will rot, fester and get even worse. (note: eugenics did not only happen in America, but in some other countries as well)

The novel offers a mystery and I managed to solve one half it, but the rest of the answers kept alluding me and the final answers were really shocking. I never saw them coming and I really liked the unexpectedness of everything. It made things less trivial and far more original. I also liked the ending, although some things were left unsaid or unexplained, which leads to my complaint(s).

It is implied that the ghost began to haunt the city, especially certain individuals, because its land was being disturbed, but the ghost’s reasons were never really confirmed. Also, considering the ghost’s identity and life story, I don’t know why it only remembered to haunt the town now and not before. Actually, the ghost should have been haunting the town ever since the day the person it once was died. That would be more logical, considering its past, as I’ve said. I missed a scene in which the ghost’s closure would be shown. I mean, the truth finally came out, which is what the ghost wanted, among other things, and with the truth the supernatural phenomena stopped happening, but the last scene with the ghost was a very sad one and I was hoping for a scene that would show the ghost in peace.

All in all, this was a very fun and emotional read, as well as a very intense one. This was a truly riveting and gripping read for me and I had a hard time putting the book down. This novel features family drama, personal drama, tragedy, hope, romance and ghosts. All these elements work amazingly well together. The language of the novel is very beautiful, very vivid and smooth, with some very original metaphors and similes. This is a novel I definitely recommend. I am becoming a Jodi Picoult fan.

THIS MISS RATES: / (4.5 stars)


The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

I've read a lot of Picoult but not this one yet-guess it's appropriate for Halloween with its focus on ghosts. You have to read My Sister's Keeper soon! It made me bawl my eyes a good way.

Jen said...

Jodi Picoult is a fabulous writer! She always picks topics that really grab you. I LOVED 19 seconds. Very gripping!

Great review!

Blodeuedd said...

Wow, great review, I can see that you really liked this one. It shines through

Julie P said...

Great review, Irena! Picoult is my favorite....

Jan von Harz said...

I have read a few Picoult books, but this one sounds quite different than the ones I have read. Very in depth review. Love your descriptions of the setting and the characters. Thanks!

Unknown said...

What made Ruby tell Luxe the truth?