I admit it, Jodi Picoult is a guilty pleasure. Although, I don’t really know why it has to be guilty. Her books do look like girly nonsense, but as everyone says, don’t judge a book by it’s cover. She writes about some really interesting issues, like assisted suicide, school shootings, the Holocaust, and most famously living with terminal illnesss in “My Sister’s Keeper”. Have a look at this interview with her and you’ll see what I mean: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/11253940/Jodi-Picoult-Its-really-hard-to-love-America-sometimes.html.
Anyway, I’ve just finished her latest book and as usual it was totally gripping. I read the whole thing in one sitting. It’s about a teenage girl called Jenna who lives with her grandmother and is desperate to find out what happened to her mother, Alice, who disappeared when Jenna was 3. Alice worked as a elephant researcher in South America, where she met Thomas and had a proper whirlwind romance. They returned to Thomas’ elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire to have Jenna and continue Alice’s research. It quickly becomes apparent that Thomas has a lot of mental illness issues and the business is nearly broke; Alice’s gaze begins to turn towards Gideon, a married co-worker at the sanctuary.
However, the mystery really starts when one night a woman (Nevvie, Gideon’s mother-in-law) is found dead, trampled in the elephant enclosure, with Alice lying nearby, bruised and unconscious and little Jenna nowhere to be seen. Alice wakes up in hospital the next morning and promptly disappears. The whole book is about Jenna growing up and trying to figure out what happened to her mother, as her grandmother refuses to talk about it and her dad is in a psychiatric hospital with no idea who anybody is. Jenna hires Serenity, a failed physic and Vic, the skeptical, alcoholic ex-cop who originally worked on the case. The story has so many twists and turns and leaves you guessing right up to the end what has happened to Alice, but the final twist was decidedly weird.
I loved the inclusion of the mother’s work with elephants which was so well researched and absolutely fascinating to read about on it’s own, completely outside of the main plot. Without giving the plot away too much, Jodi’s recent forays into the supernatural were a bit of a let down to a brilliant book. I could handle Serenity the physic, as it’s easy to tunnel your skepticism through the character of Vic, but when you discover one of the characters is actually a ghost, it just gets a bit far-fetched. However, to Jodi’s credit, this does make you want to re-read the whole book again looking for the clues that you missed, so it is very well written in that sense.
Overall, I still love the way she can tell a story and keep you hooked right until the last page, but this supernatural aspect seems to be a trend I kinda hope won’t continue. “Second Glance” was like this too. I much prefer the older books that dealt with real life issues that really made you think about what you would personally do in that situation. It’s a good job she’s written lots of books that I can go back to and and curl up with in bed. Bliss.