I haven't done a book review in a few weeks, but I will have another one up soon! The book I'm reading right now is The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult. This is my fourth book of hers. I've already read My Sister's Keeper, The Pact, and Nineteen Minutes. I have a long list of her books that have been recommended to me. One by one, I plan on reading them all.
I want to share with you the story of why I read her books. She is very controversial; some people love her books, some people hate them. If you're unfamiliar with Jodi Picoult, I'll tell you (without giving anything away) that just about all of her books take place in a court room. They make you think about justice, values, and ethics. They force you to discuss issues you'd rather not explore, open your eyes to perspectives that you've never seen, and allow you to reflect upon your own morals and standpoints. That being said, I don't love everything I've read of hers so far. I hated The Pact, and I was not the biggest fan of Nineteen Minutes.
It was my experience with My Sister's Keeper, though, that sucked me into this author. It was very personal, and it made me decide that even if I had a bad experience with any of her books, I would continue reading them until I was finished with every last one. This is my story...
Although I'm not doing a FULL book review...there is a spoiler in what I'm about to share with you below, so if you're interested in reading the book and haven't yet, please don't read any further! Read it, then come back to this post, then you can tell me what you think :)
Ok...my story...for real this time. (Big JP fans...you will love this!)
After I read the book, I was so overwhelmed with feelings and questions. I searched the internet for the answers to my questions and for book reviews to see if anyone else had the same feelings as I did. I finally decided that the best person to talk to about these thoughts and emotions would be Jodi Picoult herself.
I found her email address, and I began typing. I poured my heart out to her (remember, the end of that book was extremely emotional...I think I was actually shaking while I was typing), and this is what I said:
July 2, 2013
I know you receive tons of fan mail all the time, being the brilliant writer that you are. I need to tell you, though, that what I am writing to you is not your typical fan letter. One of your books grabbed me in a way that I'm not sure many other readers can understand - a way that was extremely personal. It would mean a lot to me if you would read through my letter, and would be indescribably awesome for me if you could even respond to it.
A long time ago, I bought your book, My Sister's Keeper. For some reason, I never started reading it then. I don't know why, but I decided to pick it up recently. Once I started it, I couldn't put it down. I finished the book early this morning, and it evoked so many emotions in me that I thought maybe you would be interested in hearing how I feel.
When I was born, I'm pretty sure I was totally an accident. A happy and welcomed surprise to my parents and family, but nonetheless, a "whoops" baby. My brother and sister are much, much older than me...same parents and everything. So, my parents decided to have another baby after I was born, that way I would have a sibling close to my age. Well, when we were little, my little sister got sick, and she passed away.
When I started reading the book, I connected myself to Anna because my name is Anna. I think it's only natural to feel some kind of connection with a character who shares your name. But the more I read through the book, and especially when I got to the end, I realized that I am not Anna at all. I relate so much to Kate. My little sister was brought into the world for me, and although her sickness had nothing to do with me, I can't help but feel guilty that I'm the reason my parents have a deceased child. I've always felt this way.
Everyone knows about my little sister, but I don't talk about her a lot. Leah was her name. I was less than 2 years older than her. Since talking about her isn't easy for me, I appreciated your story so much. It allowed me to think of her without having to say a word, giving her the remembrance she deserves without having to vocalize it...just to sit back, relax, and have someone do it for me. We were so young when she died, that I never had a chance to do all of the "big sister" things with her. I have always been the "little sister," in relation to my older sister, Amy. But through my connection with Kate, I got to feel like I truly am a big sister to Leah. You probably don't understand this feeling, but thank you for making me feel better through your beautiful storytelling.
There was a part of your book narrated by Anna that very much spoke to me. When Anna describes her theories about heaven, it got my mind racing. I can't tell you how many times I've had that same thought, and Anna's narration just took it to the next level for me. How am I going to recognize Leah when I get to heaven? Will we both be little girls again, the way we were the last time I saw her? Or will she be grown up and beautiful, and will we be doing things together that we were never able to do on Earth? Thanks to the curious character, Anna, I was able to give this topic some deeper thought. I felt a sense of comfort knowing that someone else out there is pondering the same thing.
This was the first book of yours that I've read. I'm very impressed, and I can't wait to read more. However, I don't think I can pick up any other book until someone answers a question for me. I don't think anyone can answer it for me better than you can.
I know that you wrote the prologue to be intentionally ambiguous. On one hand, I absolutely love that about your writing. It keeps a huge part of the story a mystery forever, which keeps the reader's mind engaged instead of "that was a nice book, onto the next one." No one could possibly stop thinking about all of the possibilities of this book because of the curiosity of the prologue. It was also brilliant because I think that's how a real family truly operates...you never know every little detail about a family; there are always secrets. It made the story feel more real.
I need more closure about the prologue...who is the narrator? Anna or Kate? I have so many theories and explanations for every little part of it. I've analyzed it so thoroughly. I have researched interviews of yours about My Sister's Keeper in search for an answer, but no luck. I respect your writing style too much to ask you directly for an answer. I know that the purpose of this was to get the reader thinking for herself. Is there anything at all that you can say to me to help me figure out the answer for myself?
Lastly, I want to tell you that I am a Journalism major at The University of Mississippi. When asked about career plans, I really can't see myself doing anything as wholeheartedly as I could write books. I have absolutely loved reading since the early age of 2, and the more I read and write and learn and grow...the more passionate I become about books. I want to thank you, so very much, for inspiring me to pursue my dreams as a writer. You have a real talent, and it opened my mind and warmed my heart.
Thank you so much for listening. I really do hope that you read this. It would mean the world to me, but I know you are busy. I look forward to reading another Jodi Picoult book soon.
That was really long...I know! Guess what happened next? :)
I went to Feet First in Columbia with my mom to buy new tennis shoes, and I heard the "you've got mail!" alert on my phone. Racing to my inbox, I saw that I had received a reply from...yes...Jodi Picoult! The coolest part was that it had only been an hour. It was very short, but all I needed. Her response was...
Thank you for sharing your story with me. I think the fact that you carry Leah with you, in your thoughts, means that you are very much like Kate -- who will always carry a literal and metaphysical piece of Anna. The prologue is Kate speaking, remembering when she was so jealous of Anna's health -- and of course we all know at the end that she is the one who survives. I hope this helps!
This lady is a BIG TIME author, and I thought it was so unbelievably cool that she personally responded to fan mail...and in a timely manner! For her kind words about my sister, for letting me in on a secret about her book, and for caring enough about a teenage fan's question to personally respond in less than an hour...I am a Jodi Picoult fan no matter what. I have yet to love a book the way I loved the first book of hers that I read, but I will keep reading and continue searching for that same exhilarating feeling...the feeling of reading a book that you loved with your whole heart.
I want to know...what is your opinion on Jodi Picoult? Do you like her? Love her? Hate her? Feel indifferent? I've heard it all...I'd love to listen!