Jodi Picoult’s newest novel, Wish You Were Here ($20, originally $29), is the first of hers I’ve read in a decade, but it has certainly gotten me hooked on her writing style once more. The novel begins on March 13, 2020, on the eve of a trip to the Galápagos that 29-year-old Diana O’Toole is taking with her boyfriend, Finn, who she just knows is going to propose on the romantic getaway. After all, she turns 30 in just over a month, and her life plan concerning her relationship and career goals is right on track according to the timeline she set in her head.
That is, until Finn comes home from his job as a surgical resident and tells her there’s no way he’ll be able to go on the trip with the hospital filling up rapidly with COVID patients. Not knowing what is about to hit the entire planet, Diana listens to Finn and reluctantly goes on their nonrefundable vacation to the Galápagos alone, but it’s far from the dream vacation they’d planned. Her luggage is lost, her hotel is closed, the whole island of Isabela is on a 2 p.m. daily curfew, there are no ferries back to the mainland, and within an hour of arriving, desperate for a meal, she’s blistered her hand touching an apple with skin poisonous to the touch.
Wish You Were Here is a deeply emotional novel that captures the beauty of the Galápagos juxtaposed with the terror and panic we all felt in the beginning of the pandemic.
Throughout the island’s two-week lockdown — and then some — Diana navigates her feelings of isolation while staying with a gracious hotel employee whose grandson isn’t thrilled about the unexpected tourist guest. She desperately tries to reach Finn, but with spotty WiFi, she’s only able to receive some of his grave messages about life as a front-line worker in New York City. Despite having guilt over leaving Finn, Diana starts to feel the pull of another life without such a grand plan and wonders, if you stop planning and start living in the moment, would your choices be the same?
Wish You Were Here is a deeply emotional novel that captures the beauty of the Galápagos juxtaposed with the terror and panic we all felt in the beginning of the pandemic, when information was limited and the rising death toll was enough to awaken the anxiety in the calmest of people. In the midst of a global crisis, alone in the place Darwin’s theory of evolution was born, Diana starts to realize that you can’t necessarily move forward without losing something and that her prescribed life plan may not have the perfect outcomes she once thought it would.
“I know I should be grateful to be safe and healthy and in a gorgeous bucket list destination. I know this was the perfect time for this to happen, with my job in limbo and you stuck at the hospital. I also know that when you’re in the thick of living your life, you don’t often get to push pause and reflect on it. It’s just really hard to sit in the moment, and not worry if pause is going to turn into stop.”
This book is based on a reality we’ve all lived through, especially those of us living in New York City like Diana and Finn. Be prepared to relive some of the more terrifying and helpless moments of spring 2020, but on the other hand, with Diana in the Galápagos, know that there are so many moments of calm, beauty, and reflection that will settle some of the panic.
Where You Should Read It
Crack this one open somewhere cozy, where you feel safe and relaxed.
Read This If You Like . . .
Books based on real events; stories that take place in beautiful, idyllic locations; Picoult’s other novels; books with subtle twists; and stories about finding yourself and what makes you happy.
POPSUGAR Reading Challenge Prompt(s)
This novel can check off more than one 2021 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge prompt; just pick the one that fits best for you.
- A book that’s published in 2021
- A book that has the same title as a song (“Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd)
- A book set mostly or entirely outdoors
- A book about art or an artist
How Long It Takes to Read
I polished off this 310-page book in about six hours. I read it in chunks before bed over the course of four nights, but if I had the consecutive time, I could have easily finished it in one day spent reading.
Give This Book To . . .
Your friend who has their life all planned out, the people you read books with throughout the pandemic, anyone who loves Picoult, someone whose dream it is to go to the Galápagos.
The Sweet Spot Summary
On the eve of a trip to the Galápagos on which Diana O’Toole is sure her boyfriend, Finn, is going to propose — it’s part of the grand plan of her life, after all — the world begins to shut down due to the coronavirus. As a surgical resident, Finn is forced to skip the trip due to the hospital filling up with COVID patients but urges Diana to go alone so as not to lose out on the nonrefundable dream vacation. Despite her hesitation, Diana flies to the Galápagos and arrives at her hotel, only to find that it, along with the rest of Isabela Island, will be shut down for the next two weeks. Taken under a hotel employee’s wing, Diana spends those two weeks — and then some — isolated in the Galápagos, attempting to connect with locals, and trying desperately to contact Finn. Soon enough, Diana’s lonely “dream vacation” causes her to face the answer to the question: what happens when you’re too busy planning your life to live it?
🦠 + 🏝 + 🤔