Thursday 25 November 2021

Book Review: Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult book cover

AD* | 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 an associate specialist at Sotheby's now, but her boss has hinted at a promotion if she can close a deal with a high-profile client. 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 Galapagos - 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. Her luggage is lost, the Wi-Fi is nearly nonexistent, and the hotel they'd booked is shut down due to the pandemic. In fact, 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.

In the Galapagos Islands, where Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection was formed, 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.

Wish You Were Here is a hard book to review. 

The pandemic is still at the forefront of our minds - not least because we're still living through it - and reading fiction set during the Covid crisis feels a little surreal, to put it mildly. However, this is storytelling at its best, and Jodi Picoult is well-known for tackling monumentally tricky topics like this in her books. 

At first glance, main character Diana seems pretty cut-and-dry. She's ambitious, highly motivated, and has every last detail of her life planned out in advance. So when everything changes and she finds herself effectively marooned on one of the Galapagos islands, it's surprising to see how a change of scenery and a different pace of living manage to bring the true Diana out of her shell. 

It's difficult to put a lot of detail into this review for fear of spoiling the story. But what I will say, is that this book is about so much more than just the pandemic. It's about loss and isolation, also healing and finding yourself again. In a time when the world has turned on its head, Wish You Were Here reminds us to look inside and remember what's really worth fighting for. 

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it's taught us to value the most important things in life. Hugging a loved one, having a laugh with friends, or even just heading out and about; these are all things we no longer take for granted. Wish You Were Here highlights the emotional trauma of the last few years and recognises our incredible frontline healthcare workers, all through the eyes of a character who could have been any one of us. It's an effective and heartfelt tribute. 

Rating: 4 stars 

Wish You Were Here is available to buy now. 

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* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below! 

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