Book club questions for Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult examines all the key developments in this impactful read about resilience among a life-changing crisis. There will be spoilers so for more context about the story, check out my spoiler-free review first.
Wow, this book. It’s one of those that will truly stick with me for a long time. Jodi Picoult is such a prolific writer—she’s so talented and her books just have that quality that are everlasting.
I mentioned this in my review, but I felt the initial novels focused on covid-19 really needed to be handled in a more particular way. While there is a retrospect component since we are about to enter two years of the first documented case in the U.S., at the same time, the pandemic is still ongoing as of today (hopefully 2022 will be different).
I mentioned that because I was quite hesitant when I realized now is the time for fiction that features the pandemic. I just hoped that these authors would really work to paint an image of how we all felt back in March 2020. And of course, Jodi more than delivered. I truly believed she put so much thought and care in how she presented this story.
And I did not see that twist coming at all!!! Oh my gosh, my jaw dropped.
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 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 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. 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.
Book Club Questions for Wish You Were Here
- First, let’s talk about when we first meet Diana. Why did she feel it was necessary to have such a detailed plan for her life?
- While this is a fiction story, it takes place during our very real March 2020 when everything changes. Do you remember what you were doing when the world shut down due to covid-19? How did you feel reading about the early days of the pandemic in this story?
- Finn is needed at the hospital but he tells Diana to go ahead and enjoy the Galápagos Islands. At the time, we believe that Diana does actually go there. If you were in Diana’s shoes, would you have gone or would you have stayed home?
- While Finn is seeing all kinds of horrors, Diana is exploring Isabela Island and developing a relationship with both a teenager named Beatriz and her father Gabriel. Before we get into the big twists, what was your impression of the romance between Diana and Gabriel?
- And suddenly everything changes in this story and we learn that Diana has covid and has been on a ventilator this entire time. The story goes from a love triangle romance to a very realistic and scary situation. What were your initial thoughts as you read this unfold? Looking back, did you catch any hints that Diana’s trip was not what it seemed?
- Diana eventually learns that people on ventilators can experience lucid dreams that feel so real. But like Diana, many are still convinced it truly happened and in a sense they’re almost living a double life. Why do you think the mind goes to these unconscious but vivid experiences?
- What was the deeper meaning behind Diana’s ‘trip’ to the Galápagos—was it a way of telling herself to change the direction of her life?
- OK, so now let’s get back to the relationships in the story. Why weren’t Finn and Diana a fit in the end?
- A significant part of the story is Diana’s tense relationship with her absent mother. Diana felt abandoned by her mother—how did this impact how she approached both her relationships and career?
- Let’s talk about the closure she got with her mother before she passed away.
- Why was art therapy the right avenue for Diana in the end?
- In the epilogue, Diana finally goes to Isabela Island and it’s different in many ways from what she dreamed. Why was it important for her to visit there?
- The story ends in a somewhat similar way to how it started where Diana falls in a tortoise breeding ground and is rescued. Is Gabriel the one to catch her at the end? If he does exist, what does this mean about Diana’s lucid dream? Or do you believe is it someone else completely?
- Netflix will adapt the novel into a feature film. What elements from the novel do you hope are included? Who should they cast for the main characters?
- In the author’s note, Jodi talks about some of the main lessons learned from the pandemic. What have you personally learned? Did it cause you to make any life changes?
Hope you enjoyed book club questions for Wish You Were Here! Here are some more recommendations along with links to book club questions.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Another novel that explores choices and fate is The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. This is one of my favorites of the past couple years.
Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?
In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting blockbuster novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.
The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult
If you haven’t read Jodi’s novel from last year, The Book of Two Ways. I highly recommend it! The ending definitely got people talking.
Everything changes in a single moment for Dawn Edelstein. She’s on a plane when the flight attendant makes an announcement: Prepare for a crash landing. She braces herself as thoughts flash through her mind. The shocking thing is, the thoughts are not of her husband but of a man she last saw fifteen years ago: Wyatt Armstrong.
Dawn, miraculously, survives the crash, but so do all the doubts that have suddenly been raised. She has led a good life. Back in Boston, there is her husband, Brian, their beloved daughter, and her work as a death doula, in which she helps ease the transition between life and death for her clients.
But somewhere in Egypt is Wyatt Armstrong, who works as an archaeologist unearthing ancient burial sites, a career Dawn once studied for but was forced to abandon when life suddenly intervened. And now, when it seems that fate is offering her second chances, she is not as sure of the choice she once made.
After the crash landing, the airline ensures that the survivors are seen by a doctor, then offers transportation to wherever they want to go. The obvious destination is to fly home, but she could take another path: return to the archaeological site she left years before, reconnect with Wyatt and their unresolved history, and maybe even complete her research on The Book of Two Ways—the first known map of the afterlife.
As the story unfolds, Dawn’s two possible futures unspool side by side, as do the secrets and doubts long buried with them. Dawn must confront the questions she’s never truly asked: What does a life well lived look like? When we leave this earth, what do we leave behind? Do we make choices . . . or do our choices make us? And who would you be if you hadn’t turned out to be the person you are right now?