Diana O’Toole’s life is going perfectly to plan. At twenty – nine, she’s up for promotion to her dream job as an art specialist at Sotheby’s and she’s about to fly to the Galapagos where she’s convinced her surgeon boyfriend Finn, is going to propose.
But then the virus hits New York City and Finn breaks the news: the hospital needs him, he has to stay. But you should go he insists. And reluctantly, she agrees.
Once she’s in the Galapagos, the world shuts down around her, leaving Diana stranded – albeit in paradise. Completely isolated, with only intermittent news from the outside world. Diana finds herself examining everything that has brought her to this point and wondering if there’s a better way to live…
But not everything is as it seems…
Firstly thank you to the publisher and Tandem Collective for providing me with a finished copy of the book and organising the readalong over on Instagram.
The story is told in the first person voice of Diana, at the start of the Covid 19 pandemic, as she lands in the Galapagos Islands, quickly finding herself stranded. She reflects back while experiencing the unexpected solitude and in this way we learn her backstory. I particularly liked the use of emails from Finn to Diana detailing the rapidly escalating situation in New York as the pandemic takes hold, juxtaposed with the quiet idyllic life on the island where all travel is on hold.
I loved the descriptive scenes in the Galapagos and the relative safety compared to the escalating crisis in New York and indeed worldwide. It felt like two different worlds and as Diana began to forge relationships with the few people she met on the island this felt more real than her life in New York. A twist changed the direction of the story and I was left feeling unsure about this. I definitely preferred the first half of the book but I appreciated what the author was trying to do and she succeeded in creating a though provoking read.
The descriptions of the pandemic were vivid and I was struck by how scary and despairing it all seemed. I had forgotten how we were unsure how it spread and were changing clothes on return home, it reminded me that I put a bag of Christmas presents in the spare room for several days before bringing them out of ‘quarantine.’ I think some in the group found this aspect of the book difficult to read about, especially as we seem to be back in a situation where the pandemic is once again growing and increased restrictions are being introduced. For me I found myself reflecting on how far we have come and how much more we know now and I actually found myself feeling reassured that despite increasing numbers we know more now and this knowledge continues to grow.
For me Jodie Picoult is a reliable author, she is brave in her willingness to explore current issues and that is certainly the case here. I do find her books highly readable and engaging and the plot is always strong but for me they tend to lack depth, which sounds very critical but actually brings some tricky subjects to the fore in a way that is accessibly written.
An enjoyable read which made me want to travel to the Galapagos Islands, but did detail the Covid 19 pandemic and so may not appeal to everyone or may not be the right time for some. If you like Jodie Picoult I think you will like this and overall an enjoyable read.
About the Author
Jodie Picoult is the author of 25 novels, with 40 million copies sold worldwide. Her last twelve books have debuted at #1 on the New York Times bookseller list, including her most recent, The Book of Two Ways. Five novels have been made into movies and Between the Lines (co-written with daughter Samantha van Leer) has been adapted as a musical.
She is the recipient of multiple awards including the New England Bookseller Award for Fiction, the Alex Award from the YA Library Services Association, and the NH Literary Award for Outstanding Literary Merit. She is also the co-librettist for the musical Breathe, and the upcoming musical The Book Thief.
She lives in New Hampshire with her husband.