If you were given a second chance to live, would you do it differently? Jee reviews ‘The Book of Two Ways’ by Jodi Picoult #SPOILERFREE @RandomHouse #eARC #NetGalley #BallantineBooks #love #secondchances #familysaga #quantumphysics #Egyptology #archeology

Title/Author: The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Pages: 432

In a nutshell (Publisher):

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?

My verdict: I’d strongly recommend this to readers interested in Egyptology and romance.

My thoughts:

Wow. This was very different from her other books! I’m ambivalent about this because on one hand, like many of her books, I got to learn something about subjects that are foreign to me; on the other hand, it was this factor too that made it difficult for me to enjoy the story.

I never skimmed her books. This one though, I skimmed quite a fair bit, and like some reviewers have mentioned, felt quite textbook-driven filled with research about Egyptology, quantum mechanics, neurology, and even art, although the last two, I didn’t mind, as they weren’t as heavy as Egyptology.

This story went back and forth in time and place – Dawn in Egypt, Dawn in Boston. Before marrying Brian and settling in Boston, Dawn was studying to be an Egyptologist alongside someone whom she initially hated, Wyatt. But like all love stories, they fell in love. But, like all love stories too, happily-ever-afters don’t happen in the beginning, no, not without some fights or obstacles. This came in the form of a phone call from home with bad news – Dawn’s mom was dying. She had to go home to care for her and her brother. So with a heavy heart, she left Wyatt.

Throughout the course of caring for her dying mom, she met Brian and fell for him. He became her knight in shining armor – he was there when she was desperate and exhausted, he was there to cushion her every fall; to make things better. So eventually, they got married and had Meret, their daughter. Fifteen years into their marriage, she suspected Brian of having an affair, while she couldn’t keep her mind off of Wyatt.

When she survived a plane crash with 36 other passengers, she realized she had been given a second chance to live and all she could think about was Wyatt. Now in the hospital, she kept thinking what would she do? Go back to her ex-lover whom she left 15 years ago, or go back to her life before the crash?

Fifteen years into their marriage, she felt she had had enough of doing things for others. It was time to do things for herself, to get her hands dirty again in those Egyptian tombs, to be in Egypt, but most of all, to be with her captivating, charming, blue-eyed boy, Wyatt. Her Re. She, his Sakhmet.

The floor of one of the coffins of Gua, a physician of the governor Djehutyhotep. The paintings, dated to 1795 B.C., show the “two ways”—land and sea—that the dead could use to navigate the afterlife. An even older “Book of Two Ways” has now been unearthed. Click on picture to go to the source.

The title of this book came from The Book of Two Ways (as pictured above), a detailed graphical composition of the Coffin Texts found on a few coffins from the Middle Egyptian necropolis of Deir el Bersha. “It showed two roads snaking through Osiris’s realm of the dead: a land route, black and a water route, blue, which are separated by a lake of fire.” They were meant to help the dead to the underworld, during which they might be attacked by demons or raging fires. If one were to cast the correct spells, he or she might achieve immortality. It is thus, one of the main themes of the story – the afterlife, how do we prepare ourselves for it? How should we live our ‘today’? Do we let our choices define us, or us them?

A few coffins from the Middle Egyptian necropolis of el-Bersheh (Deir el-Bersha) contain unique graphical representations of the realm of the afterlife, along with spells related to the journey of the deceased through the Duat. This collection, called the Book of Two Ways, was the first example of an Ancient Egyptian map of the underworld.

Watching Win, one of Dawn’s clients who had less than a month to live as she made her last wishes, made Dawn contemplate on her life and the choices she had made. Was this how she wanted to live her life? As a death doula? As a mother to Meret? A wife to Brian? What about her aspirations to earn her doctorate? What if she goes back to Wyatt? Back to her passion? Would she be happier?

If you’re interested in Egyptology and quantum mechanics, you’d appreciate the extensive paragraphs of explanations, theories, and findings and researches, like when reading a National Geographic magazine, minus its brilliant pictures. I’m one for learning new things, but I just wasn’t a fan of how this was done. There were just too many long passages and my attention sometimes wavered.

I also found it hard to like Dawn. She was like two different people with Wyatt and Brian – so smart and all gungho with Wyatt, ‘a lioness’ and a ‘goddess’ as Wyatt called her, but with Brian, she was so ‘needy’, always expecting him to be whomever she wanted him to be. Which was her true self?

I did like Dawn as a mother to Meret though, who struggled about her body image. Dawn did her best to be a supportive parent and friend too. It pained Dawn to see Meret being so harsh on herself and and she wanted Meret to love herself as she was – smart, strong and intelligent. I also loved reading Dawn’s job as a death doula, and the last part of the book, I find, redeemed itself, and Picoult’s style emerged, once again – the conflicts, the emotions, the suspense, the drama.

This is my two cents, should Dawn or Win pick their ex-lovers as their life companions, they’d still contemplate on ‘what-if’ they’d made the other decision; picking the other partner. I mean, no matter what decision we make in life, there’d always be what-ifs. One will never be fully happy or contented in life. Something will always be amiss. It’s human nature to want more, or to want something different. The point is to stick to our choices, make the best of our current situation, and live the best to our ability.

And why the open-ending in the story? I usually like open-endings but not in this case, with Dawn. After all her searching and contemplation, she owes us an ending, a closing, and not leave us hanging.

This book felt like watching a Discovery Channel program (which I love) with a love story from Hallmark thrown in. If you like the sound of it AND you have an interest in Egyptology, and don’t mind reading about it in a form of a novel, this one’s definitely for you. I’m just not the audience for this. I know readers of romance will love this, and some of Picoult’s fans will too. I’m just a little bummed out I didn’t enjoy this as much as her other books.

If you have an interest in Egyptology and love reading a good love story, give this a try!

This one book won’t change the fact that I’m still a fan of Picoult’s work, and I’m excited to know what she has next!

Thank you so much Netgalley and the publisher for providing me a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.

Have you read this book? What did you think? If you haven’t, do you intend to? Please share with me your thoughts!

Here’s one of her books which I recently read and loved: A Spark of Light. I have also read Small Great Things, which I absolutely loved, but didn’t get down to review it.

21 Comments Add yours

  1. Rosie Amber says:

    Ah, the Egypt bit caught my eye, but then the rest, I would struggled with, and the book does sound complicated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      She and the editor could’ve structured it differently to make it more ‘readable’ rather than putting all information into long paragraphs making it such a tedious read at times 😦


  2. Thanks for sharing your review – I have this on my NetGalley shelf to read

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      My pleasure, Karen! I hope you’ll find this a more pleasurable read than I did! Looking forward to reading your review! Pls do feel free to tag me 🙂


  3. nsfordwriter says:

    Really good review Jee! This book sounds well-researched but at the same time a bit too packed full of information for a novel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, NS! Yeah I only wished the story could be restructured in such a way that it makes it more ‘readable’ and not so ‘National-Geographic-like’ with long paragraphs of explanation and info. I mean, I am, after all reading a novel, not a magazine 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Leslie says:

    Great review! I’ve been so hesitant on her books because I feel like people either love or hate them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, Leslie! I did enjoy her previous works, I mean those that I’ve read at least. But this one isn’t gonna be one of them 😦

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Leslie says:

        That’s totally okay though!! I have books I love and books I really dislike from all my top authors. I hope the next one will be better! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Jee Wan says:

        Me too!!! Gosh I really hope she won’t write another love story…

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Leslie says:

        haha!! Let’s hope not then!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Darina says:

    This is such a brilliant in depth review! Jodi Picoult is one of my favourite authors and the premise of this book is interesting even though I don’t know much about egyptology. I’m super keen to read this one now!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you so much, Darina! Pls do feel free to tag me in your review so I won’t miss it! 🙂


  6. You find neurology much easier to indulge than Egyptology? Is it because Egyptology was much, much heavier in this story? Or are you a scientist in real life?! 😛 Great honest review though. I think it’s the first time you’ve ever said something “negative” (although it’s not that negative at all though) hahahaha 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, Lashaan! I find the neurology part more ‘digestible’ and not covered in chunks. The Egyptology though… wowwww… I mean, I thought this could be done in a more accessible manner 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. stargazer says:

    Haha, I couldn’t help chuckling when reading your analogy to a Discovery Channel program with a love story from Hallmark thrown in. To be honest, I would prefer the Discovery Channel program without the Hallmark love story. 😉 It may sound strange, but I love both quantum mechanics and neurology. Amazing and informative review, I really enjoyed reading it, but doubt I’ll pick up the book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, stargazer! Yes, same here Discovery Channel prog without the love story! Honestly, I don’t think you’d miss anything not picking up the book especially if you aren’t a fan of love stories 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Rae Longest says:

    I like Picoult–sometimes! She has interesting topics, but sometimes the story gets in the way of the facts, or vice versa. She can’t do it ALL, but she tries.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Yes. I love the topics that she chooses for her books, and I enjoyed those that I’ve read so far. I’m also aware reviews for her books are usually polarized 😀 it’s either a hit or miss 😅

      Liked by 1 person

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