The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult

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The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A return to the themes of Picoult's earliest books: loss and difficult romantic situations. For me it was too heavy on exposition but the plot is brilliantly constructed.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 432 Date: October 2020
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1473692404

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Dawn Edelstein is a death doula: that's someone who is there for the person who is dying, to make their passage to whatever they believe in as easy as possible and to support their carers. It's a rewarding, caring occupation and Dawn puts her heart and soul into it but this wasn't always her life. Some fifteen years ago she was a graduate student at Yale working towards her doctorate: as an Egyptologist, she was working with her supervisor, Professor Ian Dumphries, on the Djehutyakht tombs at Deir el-Bersha on the Nile in Middle Egypt. Then she was Dawn McDowell: that was her maiden name, the name she published under.

I'm getting ahead of myself because we know that Dawn has been involved in a plane crash - or a 'planned emergency' as the flight attendants called it: there are survivors but some people are dead. Dawn seems shocked but unharmed and the airline offers her a ticket to anywhere: where do you need to go? she is asked. And Dawn knows. She has unfinished business from her life in Egypt.

Being a graduate student was competitive. Dawn was a teaching assistant and her fellow TA was Wyatt Armstrong, an Englishman and son of the Earl of Atherton. It was hatred at first sight for them: nether could bear to be outdone by the other. Both are brilliant in their own fields - and those fields overlap. It's exciting and vivid but Dawn's mother is dying of cancer and she has to return to the USA - for her mother and her young brother. There is no one else: in fact, Dawn's only solace at the hospice where her mother is spending her final weeks is Brian Edelstein, who's there for another patient. They fall into an easy, affectionate and loving relationship and a year after Meret's birth they marry.

We all make decisions which affect the future course of our lives. The plane crash forces Dawn to ask herself about the decisions she has made and what a well-lived life looks like. Jodi Picoult is ingenious here because you'll find yourself confronting some of the decisions you've made and wondering about the other life which you could have led, or is another you actually leading that life now?

I decided to read The Book of Two Ways because of Dawn's occupation as a death doula. Had I realised that much of the story would relate to ancient Egypt (which doesn't interest me greatly) and quantum mechanics (which interests me even less) I might have reconsidered. There was far too much exposition for me and there were times when I felt that I was being lectured. If they're subjects which interest you, then add on at least half a star. That said, Picoult's plotting skills have not deserted her (the timelines will blow your mind) and the characterisation is superb. I didn't completely enjoy reading the book but I'm glad that I've read it.

I'd like to thank the publishers for letting Bookbag have a review copy.

For me, Picoult's best book remains Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult.

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