Diana O’Toole is perfectly on track. She will be married by thirty, done having kids by thirty-five, and move out to the New York City suburbs, all while climbing the professional ladder in the cutthroat art auction world. She’s not engaged just yet, but she knows her boyfriend Finn, a surgical resident, is about to propose – days before her thirtieth birthday. Right on time.
But now she is stranded, alone on what was planned to be a romantic idyll with Finn. Unfortunately, Finn is trapped thousands of miles away, and Diana is on one of the world’s most beautiful islands with no food, no luggage, and no place to stay, forced to test her personal limits to survive.
Struggling to find her feet, Diana gradually connects with a local family when a teenager with a secret opens up to her. As Diana helps her fight her demons, she learns more about herself, and about the islands of Galapagos, where Darwin developed his theory of evolution. The dramatic and sometimes dangerous terrain reflects Diana’s own experiences, her new relationships and growing awareness that she too is evolving into someone quite different.
A near-death experience brings Diana abruptly back to familiar city surroundings, where she tries to pick up the threads of her old life. Has she changed or have the people around her? Diana is no longer prepared to be just a follower, at work or in her relationships. She breaks down years of estrangement with her mother, takes the initiative in her career, and looks at Finn through new eyes.
Jodi Picoult’s novels have become some of the most celebrated in contemporary fiction. From the immensely popular My Sister’s Keeper to the more recent The Book of Two Ways, it seems that whatever Picoult touches turns to gold. Wish You Were Here is no exception. It’s a fascinating, thought-provoking tale from one of the world’s best storytellers.
The story takes place during COVID-19, and while I’m not particularly keen on being reminded of these difficult times, Picoult weaves the pandemic into the story in a way that doesn’t feel forced or uncomfortable to follow.
The novel follows protagonist Diana who finds herself stranded on The Galapagos Islands due to a COVID-19 lockdown. I’m not going to lie, after spending lockdown in my tiny, inner-city apartment, I would jump at the opportunity to self-isolate here. Isabela Island in particular made for a fascinating setting, one that Picoult brings to life through meticulous research and vivid detail. While the setting does shift to New York City later in the novel, it was the islands that I found most alluring.
Wish You Were Here is a powerful, timely and relevant story that examines our connection with the world and taps into the essence of the human experience. This is yet another brilliant read from the extremely talented Jodi Picoult.