Wish You Were Here: A Novel Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
Number-One New York Times Best Seller
From the author of Small Great Things and The Book of Two Ways comes “a powerfully evocative story of resilience and the triumph of the human spirit” (Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of Malibu Rising).
Rights sold to Netflix for adaptation as a feature film.
Diana O’Toole is perfectly on track. She will be married by 30, done having kids by 35, and move out to the New York City suburbs, all while climbing the professional ladder in the cutthroat art auction world. She’s an associate specialist at Sotheby’s now, but her boss has hinted at a promotion if she can close a deal with a high-profile client. She’s not engaged just yet, but she knows her boyfriend, Finn, a surgical resident, is about to propose on their romantic getaway to the Galápagos - days before her 30th birthday. Right on time.
But then a virus that felt worlds away has appeared in the city, and on the eve of their departure, Finn breaks the news: It’s all hands on deck at the hospital. He has to stay behind. You should still go, he assures her, since it would be a shame for all of their nonrefundable trip to go to waste. And so, reluctantly, she goes.
Almost immediately, Diana’s dream vacation goes awry. Her luggage is lost, the Wi-Fi is nearly nonexistent, and the hotel they’d booked is shut down due to the pandemic. In fact, the whole island is now under quarantine, and she is stranded until the borders reopen. Completely isolated, she must venture beyond her comfort zone. Slowly, she carves out a connection with a local family when a teenager with a secret opens up to Diana, despite her father’s suspicion of outsiders.
In the Galápagos Islands, where Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection was formed, Diana finds herself examining her relationships, her choices, and herself - and wondering if when she goes home, she too will have evolved into someone completely different.
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|Listening Length||11 hours and 47 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||November 30, 2021|
|Publisher||Random House Audio|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #37 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#1 in Fiction Sagas
#1 in Family Saga Fiction
#3 in Literary Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
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First, a word of caution: Jodi Picoult has never shied away from writing about uncomfortable subjects. This novel contains graphic accounts of people with Covid-19 as well as its wider consequences. It is a novel that I would also suggest reading ‘cold’, so only a brief summary.
Friday, the 13th March 2020 and Diana O'Toole's life is going well. At the age of twenty-nine she has a job she loves as an art specialist at Sotheby's New York and has recently secured an important client; an achievement that likely will lead to a promotion. She and her boyfriend, Finn, are about to leave on vacation to the Galapagos and she suspects that while there he is going to propose. So far it could be the set up for a romance novel.
Then Finn, a surgical resident at a NYC hospital, advises Diane that with the increasing cases of the new virus that the hospital needs him to stay. He insists that she should still go and reluctantly Diane agrees.
However, as Diane arrives in the Galapagos the world is shutting down, including her destination, Isabela Island. She elects to stay but finds herself stranded, with only intermittent news from the outside world. While on the island she makes connections with local people as well as with nature, and begins to contemplate aspects of her life to date. No further details to avoid spoilers.
As noted above, Picoult does not hold back on depicting the effects of the virus, not only on those infected but by loved ones distraught when unable to visit or say goodbye as well as the experiences of members of the medical profession. It considers the grief and loss, both personal and collective, experienced by many during the pandemic.
It also portrays how people responded to quarantine, lockdown and restrictions: baking, box sets, boredom, learning to Zoom, and the like. It brought back vivid memories of those early days of the pandemic when uncertainty was high.
I was blown away by this novel on many levels. Given that Diane is sharing her story in the first person, though with additional material, it is an personal account.
There was its central story though I was also drawn by details of the exclusive art world in which Diane works; an appreciation of the natural world and, given the location of the Galapagos, musings on Darwin’s theory of evolution. Spirituality and the sense of purpose also plays an important part in the narrative though in a subtle way. Perhaps most importantly is the journey that we all face in coming to terms with death.
I appreciated Jodi Picoult’s Author’s Note in which she details the intense research that she undertook in order to portray experiences by inviting survivors to share their accounts.
I also expect that ‘Wish You Were Here’ will prove popular with reading groups as it offers a great deal of scope for discussion alongside a good read.
Despite a theme that appears dark, there is still hope interwoven throughout. As one character says to Diane: “we are in uncharted territory…The future is completely up in the air.”
Overall, I feel that ‘Wish You Were Here’ is an important novel. A novel with heart that is complex and multilayered, yet accessible. It has also given me new perspectives to consider.
Very highly recommended.
The first half of the book was OK but slow, with some good descriptions of the Galapogos. Lots of description of the pandemic from a medical point of view, seemed unnecesary as we are all living it!
The 2nd half was far fetched, Not at all like her usual work.
This one is blissfully linear in terms of narrative, or at least it seems to be until the momentous twist around halfway through the novel. I loved the vivid descriptions of the Galapagos islands - the hot sun on Diana's head 'like a coronation' and the sky 'an unholy cobalt.'
2020 Manhattan in the grip of the pandemic is also compellingly evoked, especially through Finn's emails describing his work with covid patients in ICU. Diana's expectations of surgeon Finn seem unrealistic - she recalls that Gabriel 'gave me a volcano for my birthday' whereas Finn takes the day off work but they don't go anywhere.
Will Diana be happy with farmer Gabriel, though? Will she even find enough work as an art therapist on Isabela Island amongst the marine iguanas? Is Beatriz the daughter the two have together?
Postscript: I think Jodi wanted The Book of Both Ways to have the theme of lucid dreaming too (all of the Egypt section) but was dissuaded by her editor.
I enjoyed this book, it took time to gather pace; and really felt I knew the characters well as the book progressed through the first half.
Set during the covid pandemic, Diana, is the main character in the book. She is a woman who has a life plan, her boyfriend Finn is a part of that plan. Together they know where they are headed and what they want to achieve,including must see places to visit.
They have a paid for, much anticipated holiday booked to the Galapagos Islands just as the pandemic starts. Finn is a Dr in the hospital, he stays, she goes.
Time on one of the islands makes Diana find her inner resources, whilst also trying to keep in contact with Finn despite lack of phone signal and dire Internet service.
Part two of the book has given me a great deal to ponder.