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Harvesting the Heart - Jodi Picoult
I do quite enjoy Jodi Picoult's books but have started to find them a bit formulaic. this one is a bit different. I thought when I read this that it must be a newer book but it is apparently one of her older works. I have to say I prefer this to others she wrote later then.
She still takes a controversial subject and this time it is post natal depression/ struggling with motherhood. This is combined with attitudes of those who have been brought up to think they are superior and how they behave in a marriage.
I did like the characters in that at times I could cheerfully have slapped them whereas at others I felt sympathetic so in that way they were quite real.
I found it really hard to believe that a mother could walk out on her family and NEVER contact them again and yet profess to love them. I just didn't get that. Why not talk about feelings and not just disappear?
I liked Nicholas's parents - they seemed normal in comparison to Paige's parents. Her mother I just didn't get while her father I felt was far too laid back for his own good.
Paige was the daughter of an Irish immigrant father who was a not very good inventor and a mother who ran off when she was five and they never knew why. This haunts Paige throughout her life.
She leaves Chicago and her father when she is about eighteen after having an abortion because she feels her father would be ashamed and the relationship with her boyfriend would be strained .She travels to Boston where she gets a job in a cafe. She starts to draw the customers and begins to have a bit of a cukt following for her work.
She meets Nicholas as a customer in the cafe. He is a trainee doctor from a very privileged back ground and eventually marry. When their son is born Paige really struggles and has little support from Nicholas and things take a huge turn for the worst and the family undergoes a big upheaval.
I won't say any more as it would spoil the story but it was quite a surprise the way thins went from there.
Nicholas was cool and calm and quite self centred and determined and at times not very likeable. He was a brilliant heart surgeon, hence the title but the title has a double meaning re Paige's heart too.
Paige was quite a sympathetic character , she was no push over, she had a great talent for drawing and had survived a lot of emotional trauma in her life. She seemed to be able to forgive very easily as many people had let her down in different ways and yet she never resented this. She was angry with her mother and that dominated her actions and emotions.
The chapters alternate between Paige's and Nicholas' points of view with Paige's chapters written in the first person. I found it a bit annoying that Paige's were in the first person and Nicholas' in the third person . I wish she had stuck to one or the other. I did like the two different perspectives though.
I think the part that really came home to me was the struggle Paige had when the baby is first born. She became a walking feeding machine and lost sight of who she was completely. This is a very hard tie for any new mother and especially hard if you have no support and a difficult baby too. I think many of us would be able to relate to how Paige felt.
I found it interesting that Nicholas, despite being a doctor totally misses the signs of illness in two family members while Paige was far more perceptive about how other's were feeling despite no medical training. There is obviously a difference between surgical ability and emotional support and empathy.
All in all I liked the story and found it much less like her other books in that it didn't follow the same formula and the central topic or subject of the story was much less easy to pin point.
This has restored my interest in Picoult's books and I will be interested to see what she writes next.
I would say that this is one of her better books and if, like me you found her stuff was getting a bit predictable then give this a try as it is a good story with characters you can believe are real people.
Thanks for reading . This review may be posted in whole or part on other sites under my same user name .
Jodi Picoult wouldn't normally be an author I would choose to read, but having received a book from Father Christmas last year, I decided to take on holiday for some light pool side reading.
The outline of the story.....
The book focuses on two main characters - Paige and her husband Nicholas. Paige is brought up by her father when her mother runs away when she is five. At the age of 18, Paige runs away, and meets Nicholas in a cafe where she gets a job. Nicholas is, at the time, a medical student. They soon move in together and pretty quickly decide to get married. When they have a child of their own, Paige struggles to cope and puts this down to not knowing why her mother left her. The first part of the story is set in the future, so you kind of know what's going to happen straight away.
Overall, the storyline is fairly good, but could be so much better. It is told from the point of view of both Nicholas and Paige, and does jump around between the present day and childhood memories. It is quite sad in places as you realise what Paige had to go through when her mother left, always wondering what she had done wrong. Nicholas on the other hand, seems to have lead rather a charmed life with family money and ever present parents behind him. The two are totally different and obviously need very different things from each other. I couldn't understand the basis of their relationship as it all happened so quickly and did not seem to be about love at all.
I couldn't relate to either of the characters and found them both rather selfish although there was a vulnerable side to both which showed through. I found some of the aspects of the storyline quite unbelievable or just a little bit silly and a lot of the problems that they had all seemed to be overcome far too easily. I know it's hard to go into too much detail in a short book, but I just didn't buy in to the story or the characters completely - when I read I like to be totally absorbed but I wasn't in this book.
Due to the beginning of the book being about the end of it, I was just waiting for it all to happen - there was no intrigue or suspense.
It is easy reading, and would not put me off reading another of her books, but I am not sure I could recommend to anyone without telling them that I wasn't blown away by it and not to expect too much. I did finish reading it, but more because I cannot stand to start a book and not finish it, rather than for anything in the book compelling me on.
I am giving three stars as I believe that although there was something there, but it could have been so much more.
Available on Amazon for £4.95 with free delivery.
Thanks for reading.
It was quite by chance that I picked this book up amongst my weekly library books and so near to St Valentine's Day, the co-incidence seemed uncanny with it's theme so closely involved with the heart as an actual organ. Since I'm catching up on Jodi Picoult novels this came along at the appropriate time for a review on the power of love. Jodi Picoult writes well whatever the subject and this being her second book I wasn't expecting the standard to be so high.
***The Duality Theme***
Many of Picoult's books have a dual theme and this was no exception. Paige O'Toole never got to know her mother, who left when she was just five years old. Brought up by her slightly eccentric inventor father, she craves love and finds it with Jake, a boy older than her who becomes more than the brother he tries to be to her. When Paige gets pregnant she knows she is too young to be a mother and besides, she hopes to go to Art College. After having an abortion her world turns upside down and she leaves home at eighteen with no clear idea of what she will do.
While working in a diner she meets Nicholas Prescott, a medical student who wants to specialize in cardiothoracic surgery. They fall in love quickly and despite his rich parent's objections, the marriage stays strong with Paige working two jobs to put Nicholas through college. Just as he starts to make a name for himself, Paige falls pregnant with Max and the world they have built together is shook to it's foundations as Paige struggles with becoming a mother with a husband who is never there.
Paige runs away, leaving her baby son behind with only the thought that if she can find her own mother it might help her regain her strength, but will it be too late for all the people involved?
***Mending a broken Heart***
The story covers several years in the early life of both Paige and Nicholas, with the chapters headed by the name of the person telling that part of the story. It's a technique that Picoult has perfected and even this early in her writing career it reads beautifully, allowing the reader just enough knowledge of the person's thoughts and feelings. We get to know what happens along with the characters and it's like being inside the story. Even though the time period is shorter towards the middle of the book, we still can't tell whether the ending will be a satisfactory one, with Picoult the story is always as realistic as she can make it.
The author is very strong on character-driven stories, but she never fails to add a twist to the normal boy meets girl, falls in and out of love cliché. Instead she gives us two real people at opposite sides of the social scale, but with similar feelings and some very similar hang-ups that both fail to see. Both want their parent's approval and feel incomplete without it. Add to that the job Nicholas undertakes, trying to repair heart defects and working long hours with Paige trying to cope with a new baby, without any handed-down knowledge of motherhood and the consequences are a foregone conclusion, this marriage will need a miracle to survive.
Nicholas is the son of successful parents, a father who is a self-made man and a mother whose family pedigree is a long and distinguished one. At first I didn't like them and thought it was cruel to stand in the way of a couple so obviously in love. I knew that Paige was probably too young, but she never tells Nicholas about the abortion so she does appear much younger to him and his parents. I found the father, Robert, a cold fish and the mother, Astrid, stuck-up.
Paige's parents were no better. Her father brought her up as well as possible but as a first generation Irish Catholic in America he wasn't always easy for Paige to talk to. May, her mother, is a shadowy figure in Paige's mind she run away because her family weren't enough for her. Paige doesn't see she is going the same way. So I found it easy to identify with both, especially with Paige as a new mother and a child that never lets her sleep, let alone do ordinary things like take a bath, read a book, do one of her drawings which are more than a hobby, they define part of who she is.
At the same time although I wanted to hate Nicholas, I couldn't. Yes, I found him spoilt and he could have helped Paige with Max, instead he blames her for his lack of sleep. This crossfire is something a lot of new parents go through but Nicholas is a heart surgeon and has people's lives literally in his hands. But when he is left holding the baby he discovers things about himself he doesn't like at all. Easy for the reader to see looking in, but life isn't easy and there's yet another hurdle before the book ends.
In some ways I thought the plot was a bit too contrived, but behind every successful person there is bound to be ups and downs. Whether such a career-minded man would allow himself to fall for a young, inexperienced girl not of his social class is another matter. It made the story more interesting and I found the parts of the book where there is interaction with staff and patients to be well written and researched.
As a mother I could only feel real pity for Paige as I was a single parent and my ex-husband never once lifted a finger with our daughter. Divorced at twenty-three I was three years younger than Paige, but had a mum to turn to. I did feel the obvious course of action was to ask for help, but this would have taken away from the story. Would I have abandoned my daughter? I doubt I would even provoked beyond measure, but I had my mother to turn to. Paige should have gone to Nicholas's family, but that would have changed the story.
I enjoyed the book a lot and felt in sympathy with the characters and even surprised by the twists and turns. Even this early in her career Picoult wasn't going to do the obvious and make the ending an easy one. What she did do was make me think about my own actions and whether I was a good mum myself. Since I'm a grandmother now you'd think the question would be unlikely, but at nearly sixty it only goes to show I can respond to a story about people half my age.
So I'm recommending the book with a full five stars. My copy was a library book and the hardback re-release. Written in 1993 and released again in 2010, this book shows the author has a timeless appeal.
With 16 books behind her Jodi Picoult seems to gain confidence with every book and has a fresh approach.
Thanks for reading.
This review may appear on other sites under the same copyright.
I love reading Jodi Picoult's books and they never fail to make me think as well as make me feel a huge range of different emotions. Her characters are often faced with moral dilemmas and the choices they have to make are never easy. This is the case with 'Harvesting the Heart' which was one of her earliest books, published in 1993, but has recently been republished.
'Harvesting the Heart' centres on a young woman called Paige who's life has never been easy. Her mother left home when she was five, she had an abortion just before she graduated high school and ran away from her home at age eighteen rather than face her father's daily disappointment in her. She arrives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and fortunately finds waitressing work in a diner, where she becomes quite well known for the drawings she creates of all the customers. One customer in particular is fascinated by her and they soon strike up a friendship that quickly leads to more. However, Nicholas's upbringing could not have been more different to Paige's as he had devoted parents, a luxurious home and everything that money could buy including a good education that has led him into the medical profession.
Against his parents' wishes, Nicholas marries Paige but she never feels comfortable in his hospital world where he is rapidly rising in the field of heart surgery and much is expected of a surgeon's wife. Things get worse after she gives birth to their son Max and, feeling lonely and desperate, she struggles to be the best mother to her young son. Nicholas fails to understand how she is feeling and things get so bad that one day she just gets in her car and drives, leaving Max and Nicholas at home. She doesn't have any plans and doesn't even know whether she will go home believing that Max may be much better off without her. Also, if she does decide to return, will Nicholas want her back anyway?
'Harvesting the Heart' is a fabulously absorbing read that really draws the reader in to the life of its unhappy main character. It is quite painful at time to witness her anguish and self doubt but also very easy to emphasise with her too. It is also quite sad to watch the disintegration of the marriage and to see how their lack of communication seems to contribute to its downfall. Jodi Picoult is particularly perceptive in portraying weaknesses in the human character and she does this particularly well with both Paige and Nicholas. Having said that. 'Harvesting the Heart' is not a miserable read and there are many uplifting moments as well.
'Harvesting the Heart' is well paced and covers several years. Chapters alternate between Paige's and Nicholas's points of view with Paige's chapters written in the first person. This works really well and definitely helps the reader appreciate both of their perspectives. Jodi Picoult also depicts really well what it feels to be like at home all day every day with a small baby and I feel sure that many readers would identify with the way Paige feels.
Jodi Picoult's titles are often intriguing and I was not really sure why the novel was called 'Harvesting the Heart' until about halfway through when she was describing a heart transplant that Nicholas was going to be performing. The 'harvesting' was the removal of the heart from the deceased ready for transplant. I definitely did not know that before! I must also warn you that some of the surgical procedure descriptions are not for the faint-hearted and I have to admit to skimming the parts of the story that took place in the operating theatre!
Overall, I really enjoyed reading 'Harvesting the Heart', and although I didn't enjoy it quite as much as some of her later work, it is a well written and involving story that I just had to keep reading. I definitely recommend it for all Jodi Picoult fans.
Harvesting the Heart is available on Amazon for only £3.86.
THis review has previously appeared under my name at www.curiousbookfand.co.uk
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