Editorial note: I received a copy of Wish You Were Here in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult is an emotional and impactful story. A must-read.
After I finish a book, I tend to wait a day or so before writing my review and book club questions. This is where I give myself plenty of time to retrospect on what I just read. Not all stories call for a big pause and some absolutely require this. Wish You Were Here is the latter. There is so much to absorb with this novel.
So Jodi’s 2020 Novel, The Book of Two Ways, left many readers talking and pondering the ending. In fact, I still get emails and messages about the book a year later. It’s funny because when I read the synopsis for Wish You Were Here, I did think to myself that it probably won’t be as controversial and will be a more straightforward story. Well, I was wrong. Without getting into spoilers, let’s just say that Wish You Were Here takes very surprising turns. And I was all for it.
What’s the Story About
Wish You Were Here is one of the first big-time novels that features the covid-19 pandemic. While I’ve read a couple that have mentioned it, Wish You Were Here takes place in March 2020, right when everything changes. Our protagonist is Diana O’Toole—a woman who has her entire life mapped out. She’ll continue to thrive in her art auction career. She’s planning to become engaged to her boyfriend, Finn, a surgical resident. Diana expects him to propose on their vacation to the Galápagos.
But everything comes to a crashing halt when there are documented cases of covid in the city. While Finn is needed at the hospital, he encourages Diana to still go on their nonrefundable trip to the Galápagos. While hesitant, she decides to go.
However, the virus has touched every corner of the world. And now the island is under quarantine, and she is stranded there until the borders reopen. While she is completely isolated, she ends up connecting with a local family. And she starts to wonder if a life full of planning is also an empty one in some aspects.
The pandemic had a profound impact on the entire world. And that can’t be ignored in fiction. While fiction is not documenting real people—it does showcase the human experience. So going forward, I expect most contemporary fiction to reference the pandemic in some way. But I was concerned about the potentially gimmicky aspect to it. It’s been tough and still impacting a true return to normal. So it’s a touchy subject and the initial novels about it must be handled with care. And Jodi Picoult is the author to do that.
When you read one of her novels, it’s guaranteed that it’s well-researched. For instance, while Diana is away from NYC, Finn messages her all the horrors taking place at the hospital. There is such a realistic feel to it because it’s based on what actually happened in those first months as Jodi spoke with many medical professionals working in the field.
While we’re approaching two years of this, those initial months are absolutely vivid. I’ll always remember where I was when the NBA shut down and Tom Hanks announced he had covid. My husband and I went to stock up at Target that night and it was scary. There was so much we didn’t know about the virus then. And it really seemed to snowball from there.
I read with interest how Diana reacts to what’s happening—especially as she’s a world’s away from NYC. I imagine many of us would have loved to have been quarantined on an island, at least in the beginning of it, so it’s definitely an interesting concept.
A Chance to Reflect
Something I’ve talked about with friends is how the pandemic really forced people to reflect and also take a pause of where their life was heading pre-covid. I know many people who have completely changed careers or even went back to school. For me, I had a baby and we ended up moving to another state this year. So lots of changes for sure!
Diana is someone who had everything planned. And then all of a sudden it’s completely interrupted. What does that do to someone like Diana? While she hates being away from Finn, she also is enjoying the island and getting to know a family who has taken her in. The horrors of the virus don’t feel quite real. We slowly start to learn more about Diana about why she went into art auction world instead of painting, her complicated relationship with her mother and much more.
It starts to become the question of where is her life going if the plan she had is on an indefinite pause?
This is an exceptional novel that will truly make you think. Again, I keep these reviews spoiler-free so I will just say I haven’t read many stories that actually made my jaw drop as this one did. This is a five-star read. I’m going to think about this one for a long time. Don’t hesitate—be sure to order it or reserve it at the library today. For book clubs, check out my discussion questions here.