By Ekta R. Garg
September 23, 2020
Genre: Women’s fiction
Release date: September 22, 2020
Rated: Bookmark it! / 4 stars
A woman gets a second chance to explore the career she left behind after a near-fatal accident. As she returns to the man and the field she loved, she begins to question everything she knows about life and death. Author Jodi Picoult returns with her trademark depth of story and character in her newest novel, The Book of Two Ways.
On a flight home to Boston, Dawn Edelstein lives through every person’s worst fear: the cabin crew instructs passengers to brace for impact. The plane is going down, and no one can stop it. Dawn, like all the others, gets into position and thinks of those nearest and dearest to her: her husband and daughter; her brother.
She also can’t stop thinking about Wyatt Armstrong. Fifteen years earlier, Dawn arrived in Egypt as a fresh-faced graduate student from Yale ready to pursue her life’s passion: researching the Book of Two Ways, an ancient text often found drawn and written in coffins. Egyptians believed the Book of Two Ways would give the dead clues to navigate obstacles in the afterlife to reach the ultimate goal of feasting with the god Osiris.
Because of conflicting information unearthed after archaeological digs and the difficulty in interpreting the text, most students don’t study the Book in such detail. Dawn can’t help herself, however. She’s drawn to Egypt and this mesmerizing piece of the country’s history and culture. Despite her best efforts against it, she’s also drawn to Wyatt.
A cocky Brit who is also royalty, Wyatt is witty, handsome, charming, and utterly infuriating. From the time Dawn joins the team first on campus and then in the Egyptian desert, Wyatt seems bent on showing her up. The two go head to head in every matter—until they can no longer resist one another and go heart to heart. Dawn’s depth of feeling for Wyatt is only bested by her love for the Book of Two Ways. That he understands on a fundamental level why she wants to master it and also shares that goal makes her believe they’re tailor-made for one another.
Then Dawn gets a call from home. Her mother is dying. Without a second thought, Dawn walks away from Egypt, the Book of Two Ways, and Wyatt. One week turns into two, then ten, then another life altogether. Dawn gets married, has a child, and becomes a death doula. She takes care of people in their last days, talking to them, comforting them, and helping their loved ones process what all of it means.
After surviving the plane crash, the airline offers Dawn a ticket to anywhere in the world. Her first impulse should be to return to Boston. Instead, she knows that if she listened to her heart, she would go back to Egypt and to Wyatt. Back to finish what she started. Back to see if the Book of Two Ways will lead her to the life she was meant to lead.
Author Jodi Picoult treats her characters with such care that readers will feel like they’re standing right next to Dawn as she agonizes over her decisions. Picoult’s intimate narrative style will draw readers right in and not let them go. Her research, as always, is second-to-none. Picoult clearly immerses herself into the subject material that forms the backbone of her books; the results beckon readers to wade right in and join her.
While research is one of Picoult’s strongest points, in this book it can get a little overwhelming at times. Dawn is working on a dig in the Egyptian desert and studying a topic not many people tackle; the topic possesses its own vocabulary and attention to detail. Dawn and Wyatt’s excitement is clear when they unearth critical artifacts, but their conversation goes deep into technical territory. Readers might resign themselves to sitting back and waiting for the scene to end so they can keep moving with Dawn on her personal journey. The professional one, at times, is a little hard to follow.
The overabundance of material is the only drawback to the book; Picoult will astound readers with the story structure and the questions she raises. Once again, she has a winner on her hands. I recommend readers Bookmark The Book of Two Ways.