Saturday, June 20, 2009
The Pact: Jodi Picoult
The Pact is the third book I've read by Picoult and I'm noticing a disturbing trend; her stories are real enough and written well enough to jar my mind. I find myself instantly sucked into the story, only to be smacked by an uneasiness stemming from the realness of her writing. I suppose that's a commendation for Picoult. For me, it's a good enough reason to put her aside from now on.
The Pact is a misleading title, but that's only appropriate, as Picoult so often turns her stories towards the end in an effort to confound her reader. Picoult lovingly calls this a Love Story, though the love that she writes about is implausible, if not impossible.
Chris and Emily are born to neighboring families. They are raised together, and live as much with each other as they do with their own parents. Picoult goes through great effort to illustrate the closeness of their relationship as children and how it develops during adolescence. As is probably predictable, their parents are cheerleaders for the blooming relationship between the children. When they are caught kissing for the first time, the parents are actually gleeful. While it's all a very sweet thought, I also know that growing up that closely with someone may lead to some physical experimentation, but ultimately the only relationship that blossoms is that of siblings. Picoult does make it clear that the sibling factor occurs to both Emily and Chris, but it is easy brushed away so as not to remind the reader of incest.
The pact is in fact a suicide pact, further stereotyping teenage melancholy, and simultaneously downplaying real depression. I can't say too much more about the story without giving it all away, though I will tell you that Chris spends the majority of the book in the county jail.
My biggest problem with this story, other than the close-to-home reality of it, is that this novel can't seem to decide who it's about. Emily? Chris? The parents? Whose parents--Emily's, or Chris'? There are a number of players in this story including a defense attorney with a teenage son of his own, and each character has a different perspective. In this way, there is no bottom line truth in the story. The reader spend almost 500 pages hoping to get to the answer and there is no single answer! What's more, the reader is told a crucial piece of information in the first hundred pages or so and waits through the rest of the book for someone else to learn this piece of information, but waits in vain. It was incredibly frustrating to me.
This book came highly recommended, as did the previous Picoult novels. I don't deny her readability as an author. She is, in fact, a terrific writer, and I can even appreciate the stories she tells. However, if you are a sensitive reader, who is easily effected by words, Picoult may be a dangerous trigger.