- 310 pages
- Published in 2021
- Bestselling author of 27 novels
- Illustrates the beginning of COVID Pandemic
- Plot Twist
- Contemporary Fiction/Romance
- Art World
Wish You Were Here takes place at the beginning of the COVID pandemic. Diana O’Toole has her life all planned out—and she’s perfectly on track. At 29, she’s soon going to be promoted to Art Specialist at Sotheby’s in NYC and she can’t be more excited. Soon, she’ll be working her dream job, which is just another step in her plan. The next step? Going to the Galapagos Islands with her perfect NYC surgeon boyfriend, Finn, where he’ll propose on a beautiful beach.
Except, the day before Diana and Finn are supposed to get on a plane, Finn’s work tells him he can’t leave—there’s a new virus hitting NYC and all hands are needed on deck. With non-refundable tickets, Finn tells Diana she should go anyway. After all, the coronavirus scare can’t last more than two weeks right?
When Diana reaches the Galápagos Islands, alone, she discovers she is on the last ferry to the island and there won’t be any way in or out for at least two weeks. With no cell service on the island (and spotty wi-fi), Diana decides it’s time she took a chance for once and she decides to stay. Staying with a local family, Diana has little contact with the outside world, giving her the opportunity to practice self-awareness and re-discover the things that are most important in her life. Wish You Were Here explores themes of forgiveness, evolution, and choices.
I haven’t read a Jodi Picoult book in years, but this one just kept popping up on all of my book club pages, so I thought it was time to delve back into the Jodi Picoult world, and honestly? I’m not disappointed.
Something that I had forgotten about Jodi Picoult’s books are just how in-depth she gets with her character’s occupations. While most of her early books are about lawyers, this one is about a surgeon and an art curator. Now, my knowledge of both of those jobs are pretty limited, but given the writing style in Wish You Were Here, I would believe that Jodi Picoult could have worked either one of these jobs in the past—she’s just that good.
There’s a thought that struck me early on in this book that I wanted to explore here—Diana’s relationship with Finn. At the beginning of the book, Finn tells Diana that she should go on vacation without him. I found this unrealistic, for a few reasons. The first problem? Finn’s a doctor. If his supervisor is telling him that NYC is soon to be bombarded with a new virus, why would he tell his significant other to travel and get on a plane? Then, there’s the thought that Diana would go alone. Typically, men feel the need to protect their significant others—even in an independent relationship. So, why would Finn tell Diana to go anyway? This is also a thought that Diana has, though not until she gets to Isabella Island.
As with most of Jodi Picoult’s books, Wish You Were Here has a major plot twist. While I won’t reveal what that is here (for the sake of spoilers), it’s very important to the plot line of this book, and also to answering the questions about Diana and Finn’s relationship. Though, I’ll admit the plot twist in this book was much more predictable that in other books I’ve read of Jodi Picoult’s and I didn’t enjoy that aspect.
I believe the plot twist is central to this book’s entire storyline, which causes some difficulty when trying to review it. Without the plot twist, I see this story as kind of meh. Yet, when the drama unfolds, things start to pick up a bit. Again, I won’t mention what those things are, in case you haven’t read it yet, but I will say if you’re halfway through and you’re unsure of continuing, wait for the plot twist!
Something else I wanted to explore here was Diana’s relationship with her mother. Diana’s mother becomes important to her central character for a variety of reasons and it helps add depth when Diana is otherwise stuck in solitude. Diana references her mother with mixed feelings. As a photographer, her mother spent a lot of time traveling when Diana was young, so they didn’t have the relationship that Diana had hoped for. As COVID hits and her mother is living in a care facility, Diana has mixed feelings, as many individuals did (and still do). Living in a care facility, Diana’s mother is more likely to be exposed to the virus, and Diana is unable to visit her, which complicates both of their emotional states.
An unexpected aspect of Wish You Were Here, I truly appreciated how Jodi Picoult forged together Diana’s different connections and how she was affected by them. I think anyone living through the COVID pandemic, whether severely affected or not, would find elements here to relate to, whether it is video chatting with Diana’s friend, Rodney, emailing with her long-time boyfriend, or worrying about her mother in the care facility. I enjoyed that the book focused on this, as I think that, not only is it a story that sells, but it helps readers heal after dealing with a rather traumatizing time. Even though we all had different experiences, Wish You Were Here has varying aspects for readers to relate to.
That being said, I personally found healing from this book, as well. While I was fortunate enough to not contract COVID or be directly affected by it, I remember the severe anxiety when the pandemic first hit. My fiance and I struggled with groceries as so many were panic buying. Due to my own health issues, I was forced to stay inside much longer than two weeks, and my partner and I fought over wearing masks, even when the vaccine was released. Like Diana’s character, my relationship suffered because of it, and I imagine that many others have dealt with similar experiences, as well.
Now, I’ll admit, I didn’t love Wish You Were Here as much as some of Jodi Picoult’s older books. For some reason, this one didn’t have the same impact for me as books like House Rules or Spark of Light. That being said, I still think this was a good read, it just wasn’t my favorite book of hers—though I’m glad that I picked it up. It’s been a while since I’ve last read one of her books, and reading Wish You Were Here has reminded me that I should reach for Picoult’s books now and then, even if my reading style has expanded a bit since I read some of her older books.
The main reason I’ve decided to rate this book 4 out of 5 stars is that I felt like I had some distance with the plot line. Given everything that happened in this novel (which was A LOT for just over 300 pages), I felt like it read slow for me. It had all of the right ingredients for me to fall in love with it, but something about it just wasn’t IT for me. I can’t put my finger on it, but I felt disconnected from the story line at times, and completely enthralled at others. Perhaps it was the inconsistency that bothered me.
Another thing that I felt could have been improved was the chapter lengths. This particular book has quite long chapters, with most chapters ranging over 20 pages. I think this made the book a little difficult and lengthy to get through, which can pose a challenge for many readers. I, personally, prefer shorter chapters, so this design wasn’t quite for me.
Overall, I liked Wish You Were Here. I think there are some good themes that were explored, but it needed a little bit more “oomph” to be a favorite for me. I would definitely recommend it to readers that had firsthand experiences with the COVID pandemic, though it can be graphic at times, so be aware of that going into the story.
Did you read Wish You Were Here? What were your thoughts on the plot twist? Did you feel it was needed to elevate the plot? Let me know in the comments below!
Didn’t read this book yet? You can purchase Wish You Were Here on Amazon by clicking here.
If you’re looking for your next read, be sure to check out my latest review, It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey. You can read that by clicking here.