Reviews for Wish You Were Here

by Jodi Picoult

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Picoult, a best-selling novelist always attuned to the zeitgeist, takes on the COVID-19 pandemic in this powerful novel. In March 2020, art specialist Diana O'Toole is on the cusp of selling a major painting for Sotheby's and getting engaged to her caring, handsome surgeon boyfriend, Finn. They have plane tickets to the Galápagos Islands, but when Finn's work at the hospital prevents him from leaving, he urges Diana to take the trip on her own. Diana arrives on Isabela Island just as it and the rest of the world closes down. Stranded, she is taken in by a kindly older woman and befriends a troubled 15-year-old, Beatriz, who is grappling with abandonment issues that Diana can relate to: both women's mothers walked away when they were children. Cut off from Finn save for emails he sends detailing the horrors he's enduring in the hospital as COVID-19 ravages New York, Diana grows ever closer to Beatriz and the teenager's handsome father, Gabriel. She also begins to question whether the goalposts she's set for herself still represent the direction she wants her life to take. Stealthily surprising and very moving, Picoult's latest, written while she was confined at home during the pandemic, taps into the trauma and uncertainty of 2020's global crisis. Absolutely a must-read.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Picoult's novels are always sure-bets for popular fiction readers, but she attains new heights in this keen and vivid pandemic drama.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A young woman finds herself at a Covid-induced crossroads in Picoult’s latest ultratopical novel. Sotheby’s associate Diana O'Toole, age 29, and her surgical resident boyfriend, Finn, are planning a trip to the Galapagos in March 2020. But as New York City shuts down, Finn is called to do battle against Covid-19 in his hospital’s ICU and ER, while Diana, at his urging, travels to the archipelago alone. She arrives on Isabela Island just as quarantine descends and elects to stay, though her luggage was lost, her hotel is shuttered, and her Spanish is “limited.” What follows is the meticulously researched depiction Picoult readers have come to expect, of the flora and fauna of this island and both its paradisiacal and dangerous aspects. Beautiful lagoons hide riptides, spectacular volcanic vistas conceal deep pits—and penguins bite! A hotel employee known only as Abuela gives Diana shelter at her home. Luckily, Abuela’s grandson Gabriel, a former tour guide, speaks flawless English, as does his troubled daughter, Beatriz, 14, who was attending school off-island when the pandemic forced her back home. Beatriz and Diana bond over their distant and withholding mothers: Diana’s is a world-famous photographer now consigned to a memory care facility with early-onset Alzheimer’s, while Beatriz’s ran off with a somewhat less famous photographer. Despite patchy cellphone signals and Wi-Fi, emails from Finn break through, describing, also in Picoult’s spare-no-detail starkness, the horrors of his long shifts as the virus wreaks its variegated havoc and the cases and death toll mount. Diana is venturing into romantically and literally treacherous waters when Picoult yanks this novel off life-support by resorting to a flagrantly hackneyed plot device. Somehow, though, it works, thanks again to that penchant for grounding every fictional scenario in thoroughly documented fact. Throughout, we are treated to pithy if rather self-evident thematic underscoring, e.g. “You can’t plan your life….Because then you have a plan. Not a life.” Warning: Between lurid scenes of plague and paradise, whiplash may ensue. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly
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Picoult’s beguiling page-turner revisits the premise of two alternate worlds, as explored in 2020’s The Book of Two Ways, this time with the Covid-19 pandemic as a backdrop. It’s March 13, 2020, in New York City, the day after Broadway theaters shut down because of a new contagious virus. Diana O’Toole, an associate specialist with Sotheby’s, is on the verge of closing a career-changing deal and expecting her boyfriend, Finn, to propose. But Finn, a surgeon, has just been informed he cannot take their planned Galápagos Islands vacation because the hospital needs all hands on deck for the predicted inundation of virus-infected patients. One couldn’t ask for more opposite places: the isolated Pacific Ocean islands with native iguanas, prehistoric turtles, and exotic flora and fauna, and the grim world of packed ICU wards, staff burnout, and the debilitating reality of an onslaught of deaths that cannot be stopped or prevented. In the Galápagos, Diana befriends a teenage girl, begins an affair with the girl’s father, and second-guesses her conformist, status-oriented life plans. While a major plot twist feels both contrived and implausible, it serves to examine how catastrophes can strain the characters’ relationships while time apart can inspire complex soul-searching. As always, Picoult is eminently readable, though even the author’s fans will find some of this wanting. (Nov.)