Tag Archives: jodi picoult

Picture Perfect

Novel about love, family violence and belonging

Content warning: family violence

As I’ve mentioned previously, while everything is still under varying degrees of lockdown, I’ve had to find other suitable opportunities to listen to audiobooks that involve some kind of exercise. My solution: yard work. I’ve been trying to stick to shorter audiobooks to make it easier to pay attention, and this one came up when searching. Although this author is very popular and often a bit divisive, I have enjoyed a number of her books over the years, so I thought I would use an Audible credit on this book.

Picture Perfect cover art

“Picture Perfect” by Jodi Picoult and narrated by Megan Dodds is a novel about a woman who is found in a graveyard suffering from amnesia. She is taken to hospital by Will Flying Horse, who has moved to Los Angeles to work as a police officer. While Cassie recovers, pieces of her memory come back and she discovers that her real life is actually like something out of a fairytale. However, like most fairytales, there is a dark undercurrent and it will take all of Cassie’s strength to be her own hero.

Listening to this book, I was actually struck by how similar the story was to another book I read recently. Like “The Brave“, this story is about a woman who marries a movie star, who experiences domestic violence and who finds salvation in the arms of a biracial Native American man. Picoult’s novel was written 15 years earlier and I think hers is the better novel. Cassie is an anthropologist; educated, articulate and adventurous, she certainly doesn’t seem like the kind of person likely to be affected by family violence. However, the whole world falls for Alex Rivers’ charm and the acting skills he brings to the screen are just as effective at home. I felt like Picoult did a very convincing job of exploring the cyclic nature of family violence, and acknowledged that family violence does not discriminate and can happen in any type of family. Cassie is one of the three point of view characters, but unlike Nicholas Evans’ novel, it is her perspective that is put front and centre. I think I actually preferred this exploration of domestic violence to Liane Moriarty’s “Big Little Lies“.

I am no expert on Lakota culture, but the novel felt much better researched in this regard as compared with “The Brave”, and Will’s character seemed far more well-rounded than Evans’ character Cal. Instead of being little more than a literary device, Will experiences his own struggles with his biracial identity, racism in the police force and frustration with Cassie’s situation. The narration of this book was quite good, and Dodds has a drawling, contemplative voice that lends itself to many of the reminiscing chapters. Unusually, some of these chapters had a bit of music backing which helped distinguish between past and present.

This is one of Picoult’s earliest novels, and I think it is fair to say that her storytelling has improved considerably over the years. The plot of this book was a little meandering, and I think that in trying to fully explore each character’s background, character and motives, something of the tension in the novel was lost. I am so used to Picoult’s hard-hitting, fearless plot twists that I was quite surprised that this novel petered out on a rather positive note.

A thoughtful book that was ahead of its time in discussing family violence, but not quite as punchy as Picoult’s later books.

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Filed under Audiobooks, Book Reviews, General Fiction

Small Great Things

So I’ve been sitting on this review for a week or two because I actually had tickets to see Jodi Picoult speak. Her talk and the book signing wasn’t until tonight and I didn’t want to write my review until I’d seen her. I live-blogged the talk on the Tinted Edges Facebook page and I have to say, she is WOKE. I managed to ask her about her thoughts on the ridiculous White Lives Matter counter-movement to Black Lives Matter while she was signing my book and she was very well informed and very eloquent. Anyway, “Small Great Things” is her newest book and I got an advanced reading copy from Harry Hartog.

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“Small Great Things” by Jodi Picoult takes a real life event, where a black nurse in the USA was looking after a baby in a postnatal ward was told by the white supremacist father that people like her couldn’t touch the baby, to an extreme conclusion: what if the baby goes into distress and the nurse disregards her superior’s instructions and tries to help? When the baby dies, Ruth finds herself in the centre of a medical negligence matter. White public defender Kennedy takes on her case having represented many other black defendants. However it’s not until Kennedy meets Ruth that she begins to really see some of the more subtle prejudice that is inherent in American society. Some of it is her own.

I’ve quite a few of Picoult’s books and although she never shies away from hard-hitting issues, none of them have touched me before like this one has. As Picoult herself wrote for Time Magazine, this isn’t a book for people of colour. This is a book for white people to encourage them to think about and talk about issues concerning race. There are so many points in the book where Kennedy says something that is well-intentioned but the impact on Ruth is actually tantamount to a micro-aggression. Kennedy just ploughs through the awkwardness. However, when we don’t talk about race, we conveniently don’t have to think about how things we say can actually be condescending, minimising and even erasing of people’s experiences. Picoult captures that sinking feeling, one in my own ignorance and naiveté I have felt many times, when you mean well but say the wrong thing. She lingers on that feeling, the uncomfortableness of it, and doesn’t let us glaze over and keep going. In this book we have to examine the impact of our words and actions and that is a powerful and educational thing. In terms of story, it is the classic Picoult archetype. There’s a controversial issue, a court case and a twist. That didn’t bother me so much in this book, because court is the time where you get to say your piece and that is a critical element of the story. However I did feel a little bit like the ending was too tidy. Life isn’t tidy, race isn’t tidy and the way (especially given recent political events) race is handled politically is definitely not tidy at all. 

I think that this is definitely a book worth reading. It’s a great story, it is impeccably researched and very well considered, and I feel like it is a huge leap forward in terms of empathy and mutual understanding. The timing of this book couldn’t be better.

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Filed under Advanced Reading Copies, General Fiction, Signed Books