Wish You Were Here was the February read for my online book club and I won’t lie: I wasn’t super jazzed to read it. I’m not sure I’ve read anything from Jodi Picoult (maybe something when I was in high school but nothing is coming to mind) but what I do know is that usually her books are very sad or emotionally taxing, and I really wasn’t in the mood. Add to the fact that this book takes place during the COVID-19 pandemic while I’m still living the nightmare of isolation because I have a two-year-old? I wasn’t sure I’d be able to go there. But read it, I did.
Diana O’Toole is perfectly on track. She will be married by thirty, done having kids by thirty-five, and move out to the New York City suburbs, all while climbing the professional ladder in the cutthroat art auction world. 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 thirtieth 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. 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.
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.
It’s been a while since I’ve read a book like this—actually I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book quite like this. I shockingly don’t even have much to say about it because I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone reading it, but it wasn’t at all what I expected and also kind of exactly what I needed, despite still living in the throes of the pandemic myself.
It didn’t make me a blubbery mess, I will say, so if you’re looking to cry, I’m not sure this is the right pick for you, but if you’re looking to feel and to go on a journey of self-discovery, look no further. But please know that there is mention of COVID everywhere, so proceed with caution. I didn’t think I was ready to experience a book about the pandemic, but I think this will stay with me for years after it (hopefully) goes away.
“You can only go on to the next moment and the one after that, seeking out what you love most with whom you love most. ” —Jodi Picoult, Wish You Were Here
Thank you to Nathalie Marquis on Unsplash for the featured photo.