Paperback: 512 pages
Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks (10th Oct 2013)
Do we love across time? Or in spite of it? A developer has slated an ancient Abenaki Indian burial ground for a strip mall, and now strange happenings have the inhabitants of tiny Comtosook, Vermont, talking of supernatural forces at work. Ross Wakeman is a ghost hunter who's never seen a ghost -- all he's searching for is something to end the pain of losing his fiancee, Aimee, in a car accident. He tried suicide -- any number of times. Now Ross lives only for a way to connect with Aimee from beyond. Searching the site for signs of the paranormal, Ross meets the mysterious Lia, who sparks him to life for the first time in years. But the discoveries that await Ross are beyond anything he could dream of in this world -- or the next.
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If you dig into my archive, you’ll find only two measly Jodi Picoult reviews, one of which is amongst my favourite books ever, Keeping Faith, (review for which is here) and Change of Heart, (which can be found here). In truth though, I’ve read over 7 of her books, which includes the likes of Nineteen Minutes, Salem Falls, The Pact, My Sister’s Keeper, Handle With Care, Perfect Match and The Tenth Circle.
It’s no secret how much I love her books, her style, her content, though I know there are many who dislike her with an even stronger passion that rivals my adoration. Todays review, is on the book that competes with Keeping Faith in my eyes for the best Picoult book ever, and that’s saying a lot.
Second Glance, was actually the first ever book of hers I brought on a whim, from a charity shop too many years ago. It would be years later that I actually picked up the battered and torn paperback, which had pages falling off it’s spine and I wondered why on earth did I even had in my possession a book that was less than perfect in physicality and even more than that, why had I PAID for it. This set me on the path to pick it up and read it, and my god, was I blown away.
With all my reviews up to date, I’ve scoured my shelves to write a series of new reviews for books that I’ve loved but never gotten around to writing why that is. In the upcoming weeks, my blog will feature some classics like The Great Gatsby, to more up to date love/hate stories like The Host, and many more in between. Today though, is the day for Second Glance.
This book, is a culmination of everything I love in a story, and yet it was something I never expected. I want to brand it a ghost story, but it’s so much more than that, it ties in love, loyalty, history, and when everything in your world collides with another world you thought was outside of your reach. I picked this up because the premise promised me a ghost story, and though I was sceptical at first (‘cause let’s face it, no one really writes a proper ghost story) I succumbed to the tale and couldn’t believe I had finally gotten a ghost story worthy of my time and love. [Are we losing count of how many times I’ve typed the word ghost? Update: 5 times].
Our story starts with Ross Wakeman, a man who lost the love of his life, and is desperately spending the rest of what he has left to follow her into the world he can’t be a part of. His desire to depart this world, ironically, is the one thing that seems to keep him firmly rooted in the current world, as he becomes almost immune to death. Get struck by lightening? Manages to stay alive. Stands on rooftops in heavy storms fixing electrical items? Never gets a shock. Even suicide eludes him - he feels trapped, with nothing to live for.
Picoult creates such wonderfully flawed characters, there’s no shortage of them, from Ross, to his sister Shelby, his nephew Ethan, Eli, (the police officer guy), Meredith and her daughter Lucy, John Delacour, and the eugenics story. It seems like there’s a lot of threads interweaving in this story and I know, I know, it sounds like it should be a recipe for disaster - yet it’s not. There’s such depth to each individual, perfectly fleshed out with their own flaws and vices, their own struggles. I connected with each and every one and that’s saying something. Each character represents something intangible, a representation of loss, of love, life, fear, a past they can’t escape and a future they can’t envision. All wound together with wonderful poetic prose and a story writing style that has you hooked from beginning to end. I read this in one sitting, literally couldn’t put the book down in the 3/4 hours it took me to read it and be shattered by it. It’s haunting, chilling and heartwarming and Picoult literally wrote a masterpiece with this in my eyes. She follows the same style as with her other books, controversial topics but written with care and balance - yet this one book feels so different than the others, somehow more personal even though I couldn’t personally relate to a single thing that happens in the book. Yet I felt like I could. *nervous laughter*
One of my favourite aspects of the book, aside from the whole thing itself, (duh), was the inclusion of the eugenics history and the Abenaki tribe beliefs and traditions. Two sides of one coin, so perfectly balanced and well researched to be respectful but still bring that extra edge to the story. It was fascinating, and horrifying, reading about a programme like that which sadly did exist and Picoult plays up the repercussions of that part of our history and shows us the horrors it entailed.
The best way to get into this book though, is to go in with your eyes closed - don't read any reviews, don't read too much into the premise, but just go in blind okay. The story will do the rest, it will take you left and right and up and down (you get the gist) it's a story you have to let happen to you, that's the only way you'll really feel the tale that's been spun here. So many wondrous twists, bound together so neatly.
“Ross Wakeman succeeded the first time he killed himself, but not the second or the third.”
With a trademark opening like that, you really, really can’t go wrong. One of my favourite books and one of Picoult’s best, I’d highly recommend this book and if you do pick it up, I’m going to sit here, twiddling my thumbs, waiting for you to report back to me about how much you loved it.