I finished Picoult's latest novel this afternoon (Keeping Faith) and realized that I've read several books by this noteworthy author and have never posted. What is that all about?! Nevertheless, I am here to correct all wrong. First off, you've got to go into these brief summaries with a little bit of knowledge about Jodi Picoult's style. All of her books deal with family relationships, and most feature some sort of legal battle. Lots of her plots involve controversial topics, and resemble true headlines quite a bit. There are always twists and turns, and you find yourself making up your mind that the outcome will be one way, only to change your mind 2 pages later. They're all very good, and very thought-provoking, though you should know in advance that there's some language. To read about all of her novels, click here.
OK. Now the good stuff...
Keeping Faith is about the White family, and some bizarre things that happen to their daughter Faith. Mom and Dad are having some major marital issues, and an affair is discovered in Faith's presence. Soon after, Faith begins to see an imaginary friend that she calls her guard, and eventually God. Some of the things she begins saying and doing catch the eye of the Catholic Church and the Jewish authorities as well, not to mention the crowds of people who loiter on their front lawn to catch sight of the little girl. It gets ugly when Father-of-the-Year decides he wants custody of Faith, which results in a courtroom saga. There are some surprises, twists, and turns in the book, and each chapter will propel you to the next. You never know what is going to happen next, and Picoult is most intriguing as she keeps you guessing between the legitimacy of Faith's claims and the fact that the kid might just be blowin' smoke.
The Pact is another of Jodi Picoult's newest novels, and begins with the death of a teenage girl. The remaining 400+ pages detail the girl's relationship with her boyfriend, her family, their families, her secrets, and -above all- whether or not the couple had a suicide pact. It was disturbing yet compelling on so many levels. If you pick this one up, you can expect a story typical of JP in that there are all the twists and bends in the road. What's unexpected is the deeply sad reality of stories just like these kids'.
Nineteen Minutes should be required reading for every single educator, and for every Teacher Ed student at every college or university in America. You open the book and are launched right smack dab in the middle of a school shooting. When the dust settles, someone is arrested, and the trial uncovers some nasty bullying. Apparently lots of nasty things happen to kids when we aren't watching them. What I like about this approach to such a touchy subject is that JP isn't excusing murder by bringing out a troubled past. She is merely giving those of us who have been out of high school (or the students' version of it, anyway) much too long an accurate picture of what their life is like.
In Plain Truth was the first JP novel I read, and it is one of her older selections. It's the story of an Amish girl who was discovered with a dead infant, and how two opposing cultures (the American justice system and Amish tradition) dealt with her trial for allegedly murdering her child. The thing is, nobody knew the girl was pregnant. They don't know who the father is, and they surely do not know whether or not she really killed her child. As an added bonus, you get schooled on life with the Amish peeps as a local detective assigned to the case lives with them during her investigation.
My Sister's Keeper in probably the deepest of Picoult's books that I have read. It features a family that includes 2 sisters who are normal in every way, save the fact that the youngest was genetically planned to be spare parts for her older sister who has leukemia and is in constant need of bone marrow, blood, and kidney transplants. Then, Anna (the younger sister) decides she no longer wants to be her sister's donor. After the family is torn by a legal battle, and the book ends in a way that is rather shocking. What I like about this book is that it sparks some incredible discussions among readers, and it brings you to ask yourself some really uncomfortable questions.
The central theme behind The Tenth Circle is date rape. Daniel is Trixie's dad, and finds himself doing whatever it takes, even confronting his own demons, to protect his daughter. As an interesting side-story, Daniel is a comic book illustrator and there are comic illustrations of the story sprinkled throughout. Legend tells that if you look hard enough, there's a secret message spelled out in the illustrations. I didn't look hard enough. I just considered the book the prize.
So there ya have it. A lengthy post, I know, but remember I'm correcting wrongs here!
I'll tell ya, this book is beyond inspirational. I don't know that I've ever come across someone who is doing about this whole dying thing as well as Randy Pausch. He's very realistic yet remarkable, funny but nerdy, and immediately likeable. Despite the fact that he chronicles his experiences in Academia that most people cannot and will never relate to, he does so in such a simplistic fashion that you understand and take away some deep life lessons from his excerpts. The last few chapters are when Randy begins to speak more specifically to and about his wife and children, and that part is pretty tough emotionally. He wraps it up nicely, however, and send you back to your life feeling all warm and fuzzy and better just for reading about him.
I highly recommend reading the book and then watching the lecture on TouTube. That will give you the whole picture, and therefore the best experience. My favorite line in the video clip is when Randy talks about the fact that he has indeed had a deathbed conversion experience: he recently purchased a Mac. ;)
As I read it, I thought about lots of different angles from which to go about teaching this book in depth to students. The themes of friendship, trust, character, strength, responsibility, conformity vs. nonconformity, etc. would make this book an excellent choice for classroom study or a student book club. Just know that it is a question-sparker for sure...those make the greatest books! By the way, Thunder was written on an upper 5th grade reading level.
Curiously enough, David Logan (Papa) reminded me soooo much of my beloved Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird). He is the one to calm his family with the "it's not time to worry yet" phrase, and he handles the drama with class and nobility.