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Too much going on
Second Glance - Jodi Picoult
Member Name: katyj10
Second Glance - Jodi Picoult
Advantages: Interesting story line
Disadvantages: Far too many characters and complex story
This is a review of the 2003 book Second Glance - Jodi Picoult. My copy is actually a 2008 reprint with a note from the author that states (at the time of writing) it was still her favourite book she'd written. I was quite surprised at this as I found it really quite complex to read and I have read plenty of Picoult's books now and wouldn't rank it as one of my top five even. Having said that, I still enjoyed reading and guessing as the storyline progressed what was going to happen.
The book is clearly marketed as a ghost story and begins with a disillusioned paranormal investigator Ross who really wants to see a ghost to prove they exist. He lost his wife in a car accident and hopes to see her one day as a ghost. Travelling to Comtosook in Vermont, Ross visits his sister Shelby and her son Ethan who is suffering from XP, a condition which makes him so sensitive to daylight it could kill him. Ross is drawn into a local Native American Indian site which is rumoured to be a burial site and is thus protected. The would-be developed hires Ross to investigate to help him proceed with the shopping centre he wants to build on the site.
Spencer Pike is an old man dying in a home and he is happy to sell the land to the developer. Az Thompson is an old security guard on the granite mines in the village who has links to the old Abenaki Indian tribe and a very philosophical view on life that makes him someone people are drawn to for counsel. Eli Rochert, the local police cop reopens an old case concerning the murder of Spencer's wife (Cissy) in the 1930s and during this time lots of mysterious things are happening in the town that nobody can explain.
In addition to the aforementioned, are Meredith the genetic scientist who helps parents who are struggling to have healthy children and want to rule out hereditary illness. She is having problems with her daughter Lucy and doesn't know what to do with her and relies heavily on grandmother Ruby to be the family matriarch.
As you can see there are a lot of characters involved in the book which jumps between the time line of now and back in 1930. This makes it quite complex reading in my opinion but also adds a lot of the meat to the bones of the book.
Whilst I found the generations of Cissy's family difficult to follow, it was obvious that there was going to be some links with all the different parties involved despite the gaps of the years. There were some interesting themes covered in the book about when love goes beyond the graves, do ghosts really exist and also into the medical issues behind Ethan's XP condition which I would have been interested to know more about.
Cissy visits a 1930s women's mental institution with her husband's colleague from the University and is shocked at what she sees there. Her father and husband are working on a Eugenics project which looks at family trees and hereditary conditions of mental illness and in some cases, the argument for sterilisation of 'unsuitable' people before they become parents. It is quite shocking that this really happened in the 1930s and was only ruled out when Hitler's wish for a pure race highlighted the wrong side of Eugenics. Cissy feels that she has underlying mental illness problems and has made suicide attempts which her husband covers up and she feels she has a lot in common with the women at the institution she visits.
Writing the review has confirmed how complex this book is and there are so many elements you could choose to cover that are included in the book you really could continue forever on the themes and outcomes of the book. It certainly kept me guessing and as a ghost story it still remained believable and you could connect with the characters in the book. It's really a book that you have to concentrate whilst reading and there is an element of repetition in the book when the past is visited and then the people in the future are working out what happened when you as the reader already know but in the true spirit of Picoult, she does hold back a few key details which make the book more of a reveal at the end.
Summary: Not my favourite JP book