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. 

My Review

Reading Jodi Picoult is not a straight path. It’s a winding road full of opposing views, some of which will resonate, some of which will anger and all will make you think.

My last foray left me upset and a bit traumatised and while I had conflicting views here, it wasn’t so dramatic for me. I’d almost managed to forget the first few months of the pandemic. The horror of the deaths and hospitalisations. The fear that we would run out of beds and ventilators and people would be left to die in hospital car parks.

We tried to care for my elderly mother-in-law in her sheltered accommodation. Between us we visited six times a day, probably breaking lockdown rules but there was no-one else. She stopped eating, lost two and a half stone. We tried to get her to eat. My husband and brother-in-law had to pick her up off the floor every day where she had fallen off the chair – she wouldn’t get into bed. She had constant UTIs and hallucinated, her leg ulcers wept in puddles on the floor. She got cellulitis and nearly died. I had to clean her and change her ‘nappy’. There was no-one else to do it.

Eventually in June, we got her into respite. Six months later you wouldn’t know she had even been ill. She can’t walk but then that’s the arthritis, but everything else is back to normal. She turned 88 in September.

So, yes, we broke the rules, but the alternative was to leave her to die alone. Many people did, in nursing homes and hospitals. My friend’s partner had Alzheimer’s. She couldn’t visit – just peering through the window made him agitated. He died and there were only five people at his funeral. She was heartbroken and still is.

But then we see Finn’s point of view and know why it had to happen. But many of us still question if it was the right decision. I don’t mean lockdown or travel restrictions. I just mean holding the hand of your dying loved one. Kissing their forehead in their last moments. Just saying goodbye.

In April I was furloughed for three months. First I heard the birds. The roads were clear. Traffic stopped. I went for a walk once a day, exercised and did yoga in the garden to music. I did my bit and shopped for disabled or vulnerable neighbours. I’ve never felt so free, like Diana in the Galapagos. Priorities changed.

I thought it would last – the peace I mean, not the pandemic – but of course it didn’t. Shops and bars opened. Traffic resumed. Hustle and bustle, pollution, noise. Schools went back, rightly so. People moaned about foreign holidays as if nothing had happened. And marriages and relationships dissolved in anger.

Nearly two years later and a new variant has just been announced as I write this review. When it’s all over, if it ever is, I’d like to travel, maybe see the tortoises in Isabela or just go to Gran Canaria and sit in the sun.

This book is so good and heart-breaking. I sympathised with both Diana and Finn. But for him it was black and white, as there was no alternative. For her it was shades of grey, like for me. But Diana and I were not at the sharp end, saving and losing lives, every day, every hour. Celebrating the successes, weeping over the failures.

I can’t say much more without spoilers, but do read it, just keep the tissues to hand and prepare to get emotional. I did.

Many thanks to The Pigeonhole and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read.

About the Author

Jodi Picoult is the author of numerous novels, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers Small Great Things, A Spark of Light, Leaving Time, The Storyteller, Lone Wolf, Between the Lines, Sing You Home, House Rules, Handle with Care, Change of Heart, Nineteen Minutes, and My Sister’s Keeper. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children.

Website: http://www.jodipicoult.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jodipicoult
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jodipicoult

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