books, reviews

Readalong Round Up: Wish You Were Here – Jodi Picoult

I love Jodi Picoult’s books, they always make you think and question, which I feel is pretty important in the world we live in. I took part in the Tandem Collective’s readalong over on Instagram but as my talents do not lie in creating reels or stories (is it just me that can’t seem to get half the functions to work properly?) There was also a DM chat group but I won’t be sharing anyone else’s thoughts.

This is a book set in the very recent past and dealing with 2020’s Covid-19 outbreak, lockdowns etc. I wasn’t sure how well I’d do reading about something that’s still ongoing and very raw. This is how I got on.

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 Galápagos 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 still go, he insists. And reluctantly, she agrees.

Once she’s in the Galápagos, 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 . . .

I was quite cross with the cavalier attitude on display here and my first instinct was to shout “don’t be so bloody stupid and irresponsible!” Going to a tiny island in the Pacific with limited health care resources is incredibly selfish. Diana should stay in New York and support Finn. But then they don’t know how absolutely devastatingly terrible things will get.

I like Abuela, she rescued a very stupid Diana, who didn’t appreciate that the hotel would be shut, even though she was warned about the lockdown before she got on the ferry. Gabriel is probably right to be upset, the world has just turned upside down and he’s worried about his family and his home. He shouldn’t be yelling at his grandmother though. Have some respect.

I can understand his motivations a bit more, he just wants to keep his family safe and he’s been through a lot. I think he and Diana will get to know each other better and explore the island.

I know that Darwin came up with The Origin of the Species and his theory of natural selection (although not the first to do so or unique) after visiting the Galapagos Islands and seeing the distinct differences in species between different islands. Gabriel is paraphrasing “history is written by the victors”, attributed to Winston Churchill. It means we don’t hear the losing sides version of events, only the successes.

I know a lot of people clapped for carers and volunteered for mutual aid things. I did the shopping for one neighbour who was quarantined and fed another’s cat when she was hospitalised (not with covid). I just wish it had lasted longer and been more permanent, we seem to have gone right back to being selfish even though it’s not over (I still shop for my neighbour and feed cats for those in hospital).

I think Diana is starting to feel very comfortable with Gabriel and he seems lonely, so it’s perhaps inevitable that something might happen.

Nina Simone’s version is one of my favourite pieces of music, a real Desert Island Disc choice.

OK, didn’t see this coming. I couldn’t get my stupid Stories to work and is this a huh? face – 😕 cos that’s how I felt.

I think Finn is dealing with a lot, and something that feels huge, and new, to Diana isn’t to him. He’s been living with the new realities of lockdown and working on the front line for a while now.

Wait! What? Please explain. I’m so confused. 🥴

So, I didn’t really do any of these because I can’t work those functions (my brain can’t cope with technology, also my phone hates me) so that was that then. I don’t know enough South American actors to cast anyone, because it would need to be accurate. I did do a flatlay, photo thing, you can see it here.

My overall thoughts: I immediately thought of my friend telling me about her sister who was working on coral reefs on another tiny island when covid hit. She had to leave her dream job and fly home when they closed the island – and the project is on hold so she’s stuck at home with no job, hard to be a marine biologist in London, and no idea if she can ever go back. Millions of people had their lives turned upside down in the last two years and with no end in sight, this will keep happening.

As the book progressed I got seduced by the idyllic island life Diana was leading, which then gets thrown into chaos by what happens next. Which I won’t spoil but will say that the second half of the book was very, very different to the first.

Once Diana is back in New York, dealing with events, working out if her relationship, job, life, is even what she wants anymore, I struggled a bit. Like many people I lost loved ones last year and it has been really hard. My mum is a nurse, and while she was covering for her colleagues who were drafted into hospitals (she retires next year and my dad is high risk so she was doing other duties behind the scenes), I saw some of what medical professionals were going through.

Last year was just horrible and maybe this book is just a bit too soon, and as things are starting to crack again with new variants and restrictions and the future is so uncertain, I just don’t quite know how I feel about this book.

Have you read this book? Maybe you were in a book group like I was for the readalong, let me know your thoughts in the comments. Is it too soon for literature about 2020? When is the right time? I’d really love to hear other people’s thoughts.

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