I DO NOT WANT TO READ ABOUT COVID!!!!!!!
A note to any and all authors and publishers, up front: I ABSOLUTELY, 10000%, DO NOT WANT TO READ ABOUT COVID!!!!! I READ FICTION TO *ESCAPE* THE “REAL” WORLD!!!!! Write the stories if you feel you must. Maybe for your own mental health, you *need* to write COVID stories. For the rest of us, PLEASE do NOT publish them for a while. It is still *TOO* real, no matter what one thinks about the virus or any of the politics around it. (And remember, no matter your own thoughts on it, there are large segments of your potential customers who will disagree with you.)
All of the above noted, the actual story here is well crafted and well told. Picoult manages to bring in, from a more mysticism side, one of the aspects of Bill Myers’ Eli that made that book one of the most influential of my own life – even as he approached the concept from a more science/ science fiction side. The scenes in the Galapagos in particular are truly viscerally stunning. You feel yourself being there as much as our lead character is, in all of the messy situations she finds herself trapped in on this paradise as the world falls apart. Indeed, had the entire book been based there, to me it would have been a much better book overall – even though I objectively rated this story as a 5*, I must admit the latter third of the book, while still strong and compelling storytelling objectively, was less interesting to me (other than the mysticism mentioned above, as this is where those aspects come into play).
At the end of the day, I write this review roughly six weeks before publication and this book has nearly 600 reviews on Goodreads – at the time I began writing this, it looked as though this one will be number 569. Which speaks to the marketing reach and prowess of its publisher, and Picoult’s own status as, as I described her on Facebook earlier this morning “a grocery store book section level author that seems to occupy half of said grocery store book section”. And the mystic hook being so rarely used is perhaps reason to rate this book as more compelling than others, but overall the tale here and the level of the writing… as I mentioned on my review of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Malibu Rising: there is absolutely *no* doubt that this is a strong tale strongly crafted. But I really have read oh so many authors from less powerful publishers that are at least as good, and thus I truly don’t understand the hype.
For those that *do* want a “real” look at COVID in their fiction, whether that be in 2021 or later, this book is absolutely must read. For those that want island escapism and don’t mind COVID being a central part of the tale, you’re definetly going to want to read this one, even if you’ve never read Picoult (as I had never before this book). But for those who, for any reason at all, just can’t deal with COVID “realism” in their escapism/ fiction… maybe hold off on this one until you’re at a point where you can. And then read it, because it really is a great story overall. Recommended.
This review of Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult was originally written on October 15, 2021.