cover image Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here

Jodi Picoult. Ballantine, $28.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-984818-41-6

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.)