“In nineteen minutes you can mow the front lawn, color your hair, watch a third of a hockey game. You can bake scones, or get a tooth filled by a dentist. You can fold laundry for a family of five. Or, you can bring the world to a screeching halt.”
The book centers around a violent crime in a small city in the Northeast. Very well put together, the author jumps time periods and characters, but never gets you confused about where you are, with whom, when. No, that’s not the challenging part.
The test is looking at all sides, of all the grief, of so much suffering, for so long. The reader will want to judge certain characters. As stories unfold, your judgment may seem harsh. You sympathize and empathize, decry the injustices. Yet they are realistic representations of situations with which we are all too familiar. The storytelling is never smarmy or sentimental. The reader is also challenged to decide how they would feel and act, from both sides of the crime. Balance this with your religious beliefs and your national sensibilities, and you have the most thought provoking book you’ve read in a while. It’s a novel, based on a mixture of recent historical events.
The list of characters is also a list of people who should read this book:
Parents who think themselves ineffective
People who think of themselves as doing parenting well
Victims of bullies
Officers of the Court
Parents of teens
Anyone who has lost a loved one to violent crime
Parents of perpetrators
Students who don’t fit in
Parents praised for childrens’ success
Parents faulted for childrens’ failures
Anyone who has fallen in love, ever
Far from tedious, the reader is kept on seat’s edge much of the time. There are a few suspenseful parts of the story. But most intriguing is watching the characters develop, and your own feelings change.
After the book ends, information is given on resources for teens and communities on addressing, hopefully preventing such things. There are links to discussion questions. Ms. Picoult offers a tremendous public service, as well as an excellent summer’s read.
One character’s realization seems to be the bottom line of this compelling novel – “Love is sustenance, broken down and beating through your bloodstream.”