Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult
Goodreads blurb: Diana O’Toole is perfectly on track. She will be married by thirty, done having kids by thirty-five, and move out to the New York City suburbs, all while climbing the professional ladder in the cutthroat art auction world. She’s not engaged just yet, but she knows her boyfriend, Finn, a surgical resident, is about to propose on their romantic getaway to the Galápagos—days before her thirtieth birthday. Right on time. But then a virus that felt worlds away has appeared in the city, and on the eve of their departure, Finn breaks the news: It’s all hands on deck at the hospital. He has to stay behind. You should still go, he assures her, since it would be a shame for all of their nonrefundable trip to go to waste. And so, reluctantly, she goes.
Almost immediately, Diana’s dream vacation goes awry. The whole island is now under quarantine, and she is stranded until the borders reopen. Completely isolated, she must venture beyond her comfort zone. Slowly, she carves out a connection with a local family when a teenager with a secret opens up to Diana, despite her father’s suspicion of outsiders. Diana finds herself examining her relationships, her choices, and herself—and wondering if when she goes home, she too will have evolved into someone completely different.
My take: This was a 5 stars reads. It was so good I’m doing a full blog post about it because this book needs a lot of discussion. First, in terms of the story, but also its implications as to how to navigate the world we are living in, the experiences we just had and how to look as a post pandemic world. This book is not easy to read. I started it 5 months ago, because I got an ARC for review, and went 8% and decided to drop it. It was too much. A woman alone in an island in the pandemic? i was still in pandemic blur I think and needed escapism in my reading. So i let it go. Then, plenty of bookstagramers were recommending it. Not only recommending it but singing its praises, so I decided to give it one more go this month and see if i would get more than 8% more in. And boy did I ever.
I couldn’t put it down. It kept getting better and better. From the action, to the psychology of it all, I was 100% in. Also there was so much character development and questioning that you can feel you are going through their aha moments with them. And I do love me an aha moment. And the twists, they were so good! i don’t want any spoilers here, but when you do read it please let me know, I need to talk to people about it. That is all I’m saying here, just this book is so much more than what you expect and I am here for all of it.
The beauty of the book is more the questions it poses, rather than those it answers. When life changes, when you are forced to revaluate a lot of things, how does one go back? should one go back? what does it mean to go forward after a big life change. Also what should we be striving for? Are we working towards achievement or happiness. We tend to join those two together an they are quite different things. I think i was one of the people who felt they were interconnected and life has thought me that its really not. They can coexist if the right paths are taken but one can have them individually . I’ve had a lot of negative reactions to many an article and conversation to going back to pre pandemic times and back to the old normal – but should we do that? should we go back to our old normal or create better and new normals? As many a negative thing this pandemic has brought us, There have been some positive shifts in paradigms, what we can do and our own personal understanding. From how we handle our time and our flexibility ( i am loving my partial work from home flexibility) to how we handle our health care. How we spend our free time, and who we spend our free time with. And what is most important to us. This books questions a lot of this, what we want to truly be and how can we emerge from really dark times into a better version of ourselves (and of course I love this topic and can talk endlessly about it).
So the conclusion is, if it is not too triggering for you right now, go and read this book! if it might be, save the name and read it down the line as a way to reminisce on these times and what we have been going through as a society.
Final note lighter note, i absolutely adored the Toulouse Lautrec painting storyline (which is a total sideline of the book but I loved it!) . Even if it was fictional (and as a lover of a good piece of impressionist art and historical fiction I really wished it was true) how amazing would it be that a piece of art was connected to to some of the biggest love stories of our time? I think that could be a book all onto itself.
Some quotes I loved:
“There are two ways of looking at walls. Either they are built to keep people you fear out or they are built to keep people you love in. Either way, you create a divide.”
“You cannot trust perception. Falling, at first, feels like flying.”
“Grief, it turns out, is a lot like a one-sided video conversation on an iPad. It’s the call with no response, the echo of affection, the shadow cast by love.”
“Well, I know why you love art, even if you don’t,” ….“Because art isn’t absolute. A photograph, that’s different. You’re seeing exactly what the photographer wanted you to see. A painting, though, is a partnership. The artist begins a dialogue, and you finish it.” …. “And here’s the incredible part—that dialogue is different every time you view the art. Not because anything changes on the canvas—but because of what changes in you.”