Thursday, September 3, 2020

The Book of Two Ways - A Review

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Your plane is about to crash.  As your life, your hopes, your dreams, your frantic thoughts plunge out of the sky, what is it—who is it—you fix upon?  For the passenger in seat 12C, surprisingly, it wasn’t her beloved husband, Brian, or her much-adored daughter, Meret, that came to mind.  No, it was Wyatt who streaked across her consciousness.

Dawn Edelstein survives that crash.  In the aftermath of having had those life-flashing-before-her-eyes moments, the airline offers her a flight to anywhere she needs to go.  She should go home, but where is home?  Is it the home she knows now, or the home she once found in the man she loved so many years ago?  

The Book of Two Ways, by Jodi Picoult, is a book of what ifs, a book of parallel universes, a book of diverging and converging pathways.  It is a book that explores what might have been even as one is living the what is.

Before Dawn got the call that her mother was dying of cancer, she was deeply, passionately in love with her life as an Egyptologist graduate student working on a dissertation delving into The Book of Two Ways.  That book was the Egyptian's map to the afterlife.  There were two pathways one could follow on the journey to the next plane.  

When Dawn was faced with the decision no daughter wishes to face, she chose to leave behind her much-anticipated life of the mind, in academia, and life of the heart, with Wyatt Armstrong, the man with whom she shared the exhilaration of discovery.  Together, they had burned bright with promise.

As things come to pass, Dawn’s season of maternal care-giving leads her to a new career as a death doula—one who helps those on their end-of-life journeys.  She meets, and marries, Brian Edelstein,  a physicist.  Their life is unfolding rather predictably until Dawn’s moment of reckoning on that plummeting aircraft.

Dawn accepts that free ticket to anywhere from the airline.  Her destination?  Egypt.  Wyatt.  Her unresolved past.

How will this decision impact her future, her marriage, Wyatt, her relationship with her child, her trajectory through life?  No spoilers here.  You will want to read The Book of Two Ways to learn how things resolve themselves (or not).  

I have always found Jodi Picoult’s books to be compelling.  She is an extremely gifted writer who always takes her readers on journeys that matter.  This book was one of my most anticipated reads of 2020.  I was elated when approved to review an ARC ahead of the September 22nd release of this publication.

My enthusiastic interest in The Book of Two Ways had to do with my current explorations into becoming an end-of-life doula.  It comes as no surprise that the chapters dealing with Dawn’s interactions with those in the process of transitioning from this life were my favorite chapters.  

Though I have long found Egyptian life quite fascinating, I felt a bit mired in the denser sections of this book (and I typically enjoy the challenge of great depth).  That said, I greatly admire the intense research and explorations that went into birthing this highly ambitious novel.  I’m glad I read this book and do encourage you to let it take you on what it is sure to be a very reflective journey.  This book is meaty and will require something from you.

If you, like me, have ever pondered the what-ifs of your life choices, you are sure to come away from this read with the kinds of insights that will enrich your current pathway.  I have no doubt this book will come to mind the next time I am standing at a crossroads.  

I wish to thank Jodi Picoult and her publishing company, Random House, for this opportunity to read The Book of Two Ways in return for an honest review.



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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14 comments:

  1. Okay Diana, you have definitely piqued my interest! I love Jodi Picoult as an author as well and have read many of her books. This one will be on my "to read" list right after I finish this comment. Thank you for a review that I know will help many to add this book to their lists as well.

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    1. That was my intent... piquing your interest. I am happy to hear that I succeeded in my mission. Jodi Picoult is always worth reading. She never shies away from life's most challenging questions, circumstances, and conundrums.

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  2. I have read other books by Jodi Picoult, so already know I will enjoy this one. Add in the subject of "what if" which everyone ponders at one point or another in their life and the concept behind The Book of Two Ways becomes fascinating. I look forward to this read. Thanks so much for your insightful review.

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    1. Yes... the whole "what if" question is so universal. Who hasn't wondered? Jodi Picoult has woven an incredibly complex and intricate tapestry of love, life, longing, leaving, and looking both forward and backward at the same time.

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  3. Sounds like a very interesting, engulfing book. I couldn't help but think how sad it would be for all 3 people (Dawn, her husband & their daughter) that Dawn thought of a man from her past and then ventured off to see him instead of going home. Since you so highly recommend this author, I will try to set aside any preconceived notions and read the book. Thank you for the recommendation!

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    1. As you might imagine, the tension of Dawn's decision is what drives the storyline. Had she gone straight home to her family, this book would not exist. That decision of hers creates a whole tangled web of interwoven angst. Undoubtedly, others have made this same type of choice. Perhaps, though, the ones who have chosen not to pursue their "what ifs" are the ones who are living a truly divided life.

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    2. Well you know me! Hopefully, it made her appreciate what she has instead of lamenting what she left behind (even if it is fiction)

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    3. I did know what you were driving at, Mouse. Whether fictional or not, appreciation for what we have is so critical to living a life of gratitude and fulfillment. We can only hope that Dawn found both.

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  4. I love Jodi Piccoult books, although occassionally I find one that almost becomes too intense. But mostly I love her books. I especially liked Leaving Time with the Elephants. Jodi Piccoult is a wonderful writer. Thanks for the recommend.

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    1. Yes... I think of the intensity of her recent book _Small Great Things_. That one surely pushed some buttons in its unflinching look at racism, prejudice, hatred, and false supremacy. A book like that is meant to make people uncomfortable. This one, The Book of Two Ways, also requires things of the reader. It is not a walk in the park.

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  5. You always recommend the most interesting books, Diana! I've enjoyed all the ones I've read so far, and I value your opinion highly when choosing what goes on my reading list. I had no idea you were considering adding end-of-life doula to the many hats you already wear. Your caring, compassion, and ability to "hold space" for others make such a difference in so many lives (human, canine, and others).

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    1. The seed was planted for end-of-life doula when my mother was in hospice six years ago. I signed up locally to be a hospice volunteer and started learning as much as possible about who I need to be in order to best help others find peace and meaning at the end of their earthly lives. Thank you for your kind affirmation of the essence I wish to exude.

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  6. WOW. This topic is right up my alley. I KNOW I'll enjoy this book. Your review had me hooked from beginning to end. I never find time to read fiction, or any books that aren't some kind of tutorial, but I may make an exception for this one. I've thought umpteen times about where my life would have gone if I had made a turn here or a turn there. I ended up going to University in Toronto, but I was excepted at 3 others - and one in particular is a turn I've often thought of - what would my life been like had I made that choice instead of Toronto. Honestly, I spend too much time thinking about this - I'm actually curious about it, to the point where I want someone to tell me what my life would have been - who would have I married, who would my kids have been - then I stop, because my four boys would be erased, and I can't do that - then I think, well I'm the mother, so I would have still had them, their souls with me? Oh my gawd, this topic does me in! I'm so frigging curious about this topic!

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    1. Given what you shared, I'm pretty sure this book was written for you. Like you, I often think about the alternate pathways I could have chosen. I think about the relationships I left behind. I think about the career choices. I ponder regrets. If you read _The Book of Two Ways_, be sure to stop back by and share your continuing thoughts. Thanks!

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