When reading is not a passive thing.

Diana O’Toole’s life is going perfectly to plan. At 29, 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’m reading Jodi Picoult’s latest book, mostly because it’s Jodi Picoult’s latest book. The publishers description sounds like formulaic, unlikely-to-suprise-or-disturb, contemporary romance – a beach read. But then, Jodi Picuoult’s books often sound unchallenging. Yet she has a knack for taking something contemporary and complicated and making it into something human and personal and hard to look away from.

Reading her books is never a passive thing for me. She triggers questions and disagreements and cheers of support as the issues unfold but most of all she gets past my rational understanding of an issue and immerses me in the emotions that turn the issue into an experience. 

She blindsided me today. I was driving home from the dump, listening to ‘Wish You Were Here’ as I made my way slowly home, driving beneath a dark-too-early sky that Spielberg would be proud of and we got to the part where Diana is reading an email in which her boyfriend, a doctor at a New York hospital, described his first thirty-eight hour shift dealing with the influx of COVID patients who were struggling to breathe. There was nothing there I didn’t know. No new information at all. The only new things was that I was crying as I drove because – well what kind of person could hear that and not cry?

So sometimes, reading isn’t a passive thing. It’s an experience that goes beyond the text and finds you where you live.

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