Title/Author: The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Ballantine Books
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.
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 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?
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.