Book Review – Second Glance by Jodi Picoult

by A.R Sara

I am mostly a selfish reader and prefer to keep my thoughts about a book that I read, to myself, unless of course something about it compels me to share. Books that urge me to express, are seldom and hard to come by, though this urge is not a measure of my fondness for any book.
This is one such reading experience, that just demands to be shared.
This books lifts the veil off a little known dark phase in American history, around 1930s. The country has dabbled in Eugenics. This book presents a startling and sordid revelation about Native Americans being subjected to forced sterilization during this unsettling period.
Going by brief googling, the country has more than dabbled…there was a full-fledged American Eugenics Movement that has peaked in the 1920s and 30s. Something Hitler drew inspiration from, the book claims. As per further google lookup, the movement just crumbled and was discarded in the face of WW2 Nazi horrors and this part of American history was either carefully swept under the carpet or just slid into obscurity.
Can only imagine the amount of painstaking research that must have gone into gathering the historical details and I applaud the author’s courage and talent for presenting this controversial topic in a complex, layered and engaging story line with a powerful and moving narrative.
The disturbing facets of this slice of history (including the then prevalent racism) set in the backdrop of the present day advancements in genetics, have been tightly interwoven into an elaborate drama spanning four generations, with a supernatural angle. Sufficient doses of mystery, ghostly phenomenon, romance that transcends the barrier of time, familial love, loss, desolation, perseverance and redemption made it a gripping read. It packs in an emotional punch, with its intricate portrayal of relationships. It probes into and raises some uncomfortable questions around destiny, science and controversial topic of eugenics, genetic engineering and where does one draw the line when it comes to genetic screening and who has the right to decide on the worth of a life.
A multitude of characters, beautifully sketched out, carry the plot line to exquisite completion without loose ends, giving it a compelling and believable edge, in spite of the paranormal occurrences.
The friendship between a girl who is afraid of ghosts and dark places and a boy with a medical condition that makes any sun exposure lethal, is particularly an endearing one.
This is my first book of Jodi Picoult and I found it riveting. I deliberately stayed away from her books in the past, believing that they revolve around themes of depression, loss and grief involving kids, which can leave one with a lasting sense of unease and sadness. I happened to pick up this book on a whim after reading the blurb. Glad I did. This one did touch upon those themes, I tend to generally shy away from, but brought it all to a heartwarming upbeat conclusion filled with love and hope. But not without leaving some lingering hard hitting questions to ponder over.
Reading a good book leaves a delicate flavour in my thoughts, not unlike retaining a flavour of chocolate after it has been consumed. A feeling that can’t be expressed and has to be experienced to be truly understood. So have just attempted to offer a glimpse of the same here, considering I am not much of a reviewer. Including a picture of the front cover, like I would a chocolate wrapper.

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