About the Book:
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes a deeply moving novel about the resilience of the human spirit in a moment of crisis.
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.
“Life happens when you least expect it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a blueprint in your back pocket.”
JUST WOW. I can’t believe I just finished a contemporary fiction book about the pandemic but here we are. And that in real life, my sister-in-law just texted me that 6 of our mutual friends all have the Omicron variant. I cannot overstate how brave the author is for successfully tackling this subject and how fantastic this book is. I listened to the audiobook because Marin Ireland is one of my favorite narrators but I did read portions from my Kindle as well.
NO SPOILERS but this book is the story of Diana O’Toole, a New Yorker who has her life all mapped out. She has a wonderful job with Sotheby’s, a boyfriend who is a surgical resident and a bucket-list trip to the Galapagos planned. She is sure that Finn will propose to her on their trip. And if her relationship with her mother is somewhat cold and distant, well, there isn’t too much Diana can do about that now since her mother has Alzheimer’s and cannot easily communicate.
Diana experiences what she believes to be a major career setback when the famous widow of a musician decides not to sell her prized Toulouse-Lautrec painting at auction. The widow seems modeled after Yoko Ono and added an almost magical touch to the story.
When Finn decides at the last minute to stay behind because it’s all hands on deck at the hospital, he urges Diana to take their trip anyway and she reluctantly agrees. She makes the long trip to the Galapagos just as the country (and the world) begins to lock down in the Spring of 2020.
“That was how I learned that the world changes between heartbeats, that life is never an absolute, but always a wager.”
Diana begins a voyage of self-discovery and is forced to examine everything about her life as she knows it. There is very little internet where she winds up so her communications with Finn are very one-sided. His emails to her detail the details of COVID-19 and slowly begin to reveal what kind of monster the world is dealing with. He is exhausted and scared and at least Diana is relatively safe in her isolated spot.
There is a major twist that occurs about half-way through the book. The author executed this flawlessly and it had a major impact on me! I am still thinking about all of these characters and I don’t know how I’ll move on. This was my first book by Jodi Picoult and I fell in love with her writing. Even if you think you’re not ready to read about the pandemic yet, I urge you to pick this one up. I won’t ever forget it! And don’t miss the Author’s Note at the end, it is mesmerizing. One of the best books this year.
My favorite quotes:
“There is a profound difference between knowing your situation is temporary and not knowing what’s coming next.”
“The future is going to come, in some form whether we like it or not.”
(Thank you to NetGalley and Libro.fm for providing advance copies in exchange for an honest review.)