Monday, August 03, 2020

100. The Book of Two Ways

The Book of Two Ways. Jodi Picoult. 2020. 448 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: MY CALENDAR IS full of dead people. When my phone alarm chimes, I fish it out from the pocket of my cargo pants. I’ve forgotten, with the time change, to turn off the reminder. I’m still groggy with sleep, but I open the date and read the names: Iris Vale. Eun Ae Kim. Alan Rosenfeldt. Marlon Jensen. I close my eyes, and do what I do every day at this moment: I remember them.

Premise/plot: Dawn McDowell (married name Edelstein) is on a flight when it makes a crash she considers that this could be her end...she flashes to her long lost love...Wyatt Armstrong...and NOT her husband of fifteen years, Brian Edelstein. If she survives the crash will she have a chance to reconsider her life's choices? And if she could would she choose differently?

The story unfolds in a non-traditional way. Chapters alternate with Dawn being at home with her husband and teenage daughter, Merit, and Dawn being in Egypt looking up her long lost love, Wyatt after fifteen years apart.

Readers eventually come to realize why Dawn was on the flight to begin with...

My thoughts: This was my first Picoult novel. So I didn't go into it with any expectations or preconceived ideas. Which may have been for the best.

I was drawn to this story because of the heroine's interest in all things Egypt. She was in graduate school studying Egyptology and working on a very specific dissertation topic--The Book of Two Ways--a "book" that supposedly helped the dead navigate their way through the afterlife? to the afterlife? My interest in Egypt was reignited with Stargate-SG-1. (I say reignited because I had earlier interests. When I was in sixth grade, there was an Egyptian exhibit coming to the local-ish museum.)

Dawn's husband is a physicist with interests in parallel universes and alternate universes. Again this drew me into the story. This won't be my first or last book that touches on this subject. It just won't. I've read complaints that these two interests--Eygpt and physics--were drags to the story and made the book "boring" or "impossible" or "insufferable." That's nonsense--from my perspective. I didn't feel they weighed the book down at all!!! And it's not like I'm an expert on either--all you'd need to read this one is a couple of PBS documentaries on either subject.

Dawn's current work is as a death doula. 

I enjoyed this one. I did. I loved the alternating chapters. It kept me thinking--speculating--along the way. Did she go to Egypt after the crash? Did she go back home to Boston after the crash? Is it possible that she's actually dead and that she herself is navigating her way to the afterlife? Are these dreams she's having in her last moments of life? Which story is the real one? Is she happier at home in Boston in her super-strained marriage? Is she happier in Egypt? Which man is her one true love?

I won't be including spoilers. I won't. There was one thing I guessed would come into play relatively early on--but I won't spoil even that here.

I was engaged with the characters--most of them at least.

Christian readers should be aware that this one has a couple of graphic scenes. But these scenes were never the main point of the novel--or an excuse for the book's being. 

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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