2007

After finishing The Pact by Jodi Picoult, I was ready to start another novel, which is usually the case.  I guess if I had a constant stream of good novels sitting by my bedside, I would never use the Internet.  Instead, it is very difficult for me to find books that I actually enjoy.  Lately, I have found books that are sad draw me in.  Out of the five books I’ve read in the last six months, three of them have been about child kidnappings.  Michelle Richmond’s The Year of Fog was much different from the other two.

Spoilers to follow.

Just because the child is found by the end of The Year of Fog does not mean that it is a happy ending.  I would have to say that Richmond played the safe route, but didn’t let us down too much.  The story is about Abby Mason and the disappearance of her fiance’s six-year old daughter, Emma.  The disappearance happens within the first few paragraphs, and the search takes up the rest of the novel except the final 20 or so pages.  Where Jake, Emma’s father, relies on the police investigation and the command post where he and hundreds of volunteers organize searches and flyer handouts, Abby searches on her own.  She drives through every neighborhood in the city, talks to thousands of strangers, and even follows a man through town for several hours in case he is involved.  Eventually, through her own research, and the help of a hypnotist, her search leads her to Costa Rica where she inevitably finds Emma on the beach with her captors.

Unfortunately, the buildup (the entirety of the novel, it almost seemed) was too large for the anticlimactic ending Richmond grants us.  Yes, I am happy Emma was found.  And though Abby’s search was desperate, took almost a year, and she almost gave up there at the end, I find it very convenient that she happens upon Emma only after she decides to head back home to the states.  I say that Richmond took the safe route because not only does Abby find Emma, but Emma has not been abused (or so she says) in any way.  Instead, she was simply kept by her captors (via her mother) in Costa Rica with promises that her father would come get her soon.

Abby of course is thrilled that she not only found Emma but that the girl was unharmed.  But, like I said, Richmond doesn’t entirely let us down.  Emma has changed.  She doesn’t care much for Abby anymore, and Jake no longer wants Abby to be a part of their family.  It’s difficult to watch and read the end without wanting something more.  Abby spent an entire year searching for Emma who was not her own daughter.  And, after finding her, she can not have a life with her.  Richmond leaves Abby to start her own life, to pursue surfing with a friend she met through her search, and I’m left wondering what she gained from her year of fog.

The Pact | Jodi Picoult

December 26, 2009

1998

On December 18th, Steven’s sister went into labor, so I grabbed two books and put them in my purse before we left the house.  He may have been under the impression that we’d be in and then out of the hospital in under two hours, but I knew better–and I was prepared.  The two books I took with me were The Pact by Jodi Picoult and The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond.  I had already started Richmond’s book, but something about The Pact drew me in while I was sitting in the waiting area of the maternity ward.

The Pact is about two families who are very close and the aftermath of the suicide pact that their children make.  A year ago, I started reading one of Picoult’s other books, My Sister’s Keeper, but couldn’t get through it because I failed to find interest.  However, The Pact captured me with very little effort.

Spoilers to follow.

One of the most frustrating parts of The Pact, but in a good way, was how Melanie Gold transformed after the death of her daughter.  It was fascinating to watch, but almost unbearable to just sit and not be able to scream at the poor woman.  I hope I am never in a position to fully understand what she went through, but I hope even more that I don’t fall apart in the manner she did.  Her daugher, Emily, grew up with and was very close friends with Chris Harte, the son of Melanie and Michael Gold’s friends, the Hartes.  They became so close that they eventually began dating, not to the surprise of any one of them.  However, something changes in Emily and she becomes suicidal, to which she only confides in Chris, and they form a suicide pact that ends with the death of Emily, but Chris still alive.  Because there is an investigation of it possibly being a homicide and Chris is the only suspect, Melanie gets it in her head that Chris killed her daughter.  Because of this, over the course of the investigation and trial, she pushes away the Golds, even though they were close enough to be family.

What is more frustrating, as the story continues, is that Melanie finds Emily’s diary, and in it she writes how she became pregnant, had never told Chris, and that she was sexually assaulted by a stranger when she was very young.  All of this leads to her eventual unhappiness with her life and her eventual turn to suicide, but Melanie is unwilling to accept it–and she burns the diary without showing anyone.  I am not a mother, so I cannot fully grasp the pain Melanie endured, and even the self-blame she endured because of being unaware of her daughter’s pain.

The unfolding drama that tears apart these families is very difficult to read, but very well-written.