Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Second Glance by Jodi Picoult

820226SUMMARY (from Goodreads): From the moment Ross's fiancée Aimee was killed in a car accident, he's been trying to die too. But life won't let him go. His only hope now is that Aimee will come to him.

So when he hears of strange happenings at an ancient Indian burial ground near his sister's home, he heads to Comtosook, desperate for the rumours of a haunting to be true.

What he finds there is not Aimee's ghost, but Lia, a very real woman whose life is filled with as many troubled secrets as his own


The main topic in Second Glance revolves around the questions of what makes a life worth living, what kind of life is a good life, and who defines that. It also questions the perception of an individual about what is real and what is not, and, finally, shows how people with seemingly no connection whatsoever may influence each other's lives.

The American eugenics' movement of the 1920s and 1930s plays a big role in Second Glance. Prior to reading this book I had not even heard of the eugenics and their 'program for the betterment of human race' which included 'voluntary' sterilization to prevent carrying on undesirable traits, such as 'immorality', 'feeblemindedness', etc. I was shocked to learn about it and the fact that the Nazis' plans for racial hygiene were actually based on the ideas of the American eugenics.

The worst thing about it was that these people did not think they were doing anything bad. They really believed that they were good people trying to do the best thing for humanity. To me what is the most horrible is their belief that they wanted a certain kind of people gone not because they hated them but because they thought it was for the greater good.

The centre point of the novel is a seventy years old murder case reopened due to the sale of a piece of land claimed to be a burial ground of the Abenaki tribe on the skirts of a small haunted Vermont town. This is what ties ten main characters who each tell parts of the story from their point of view. Despite so many characters and point of views, the novel reads smoothly as the transitions between different POVs are natural and placed in all the right spots.

Each of the characters is multi-layered, telling their own story of success, failure, and self-discovery. From Ross – a man longing for something he thinks life cannot give him, his sister Shelby – a single mother living solely for her child, Ethan – a kid with a rare disease which dooms him to almost never seeing the sunlight, to Eli – a cop who had tried to push his roots to the back of his mind, and even Spencer Pike – the antagonist of the novel who realises his errors too late to repent, all of the characters present their views upon life, so very different and yet so similar in some parts.

There is quite some science involved in the novel, and since I am not really a science person, I really appreciated that Picoult explained all the medical, forensic and genetic things in a comprehensive, science-for-dummies kind of  way.

At last, I have to mention the absolutely brilliant writing. I mean, this book is quotable in its entirety.

Overall, in Second Glance, Jodi Picoult presents a story about how the past influences the present and how a person's actions influence the lives of others. I loved how she intertwined the stories of a number of characters both from present an the past into a single beautiful emotional story.

RECOMMENDATION: Second Glance is a book that will stay with me for a long time, I think. It is a wonderful, thought-provoking mix of mystery concerning both the present and the past, entwined with a couple of beautiful, although not always happy, love stories. If you like a complex, well-written read which makes you think and feel and want to learn, I certainly recommend Second Glance.

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