Fiction — print. Washington Square, 2004. 448 pgs. Purchased.
I started Picoult’s tenth novel thinking it was one that I had never read before, and it wasn’t until I got about thirty or so pages in that I realized the storyline was all too familiar. A bad sign not only because it meant I didn’t like enough the first time I read it, but it means it wasn’t impressionable enough to leave it’s mark. And for being a novel by Picoult, who is known for her slippery slope novels, that’s especially unsettling.
There’s too much going one in this novel for my taste. You have Ross, a ghost hunter who just wants to connect with his wife on the other side and contemplates suicide constantly; Shelby, Ross’ sister and mother of a little boy who is essentially “allergic to the sun”; Cecelia/Cissy/Lia, a ghost who Ross falls in love with; and other characters with their own poorly connected issues.
As I said before, Picoult is known for tackling tough moral issues, but I think she overextends herself in this one. The moral issues is that of genetics and eugenics, particularly the legalization of “voluntary” sterilization of Indians, Gypsies, and the “feeble-minded” in Vermont. One of the characters is a geneticist that screens embryos for diseases, and she and Ross clash over whether or not it’s appropriate to do. But there is also the topic of ghosts and their existence, which distracts from the overall question of genetics slippery slop.
I’m not really sure what would have made this a more enjoyable read for me. I found the information about eugenics in 1932 to be really interesting so I enjoyed reading Cecelia’s parts of the novel. But I do see the importance of including Shelby and Ross because they represent eugenics in 2010 (or 2003, which is when the novel was first published). I guess you could say that the ghosts are what turned me off to this novel (funny since ghosts were Picoult’s original premise), but then how would Shelby and Ross be connected to Cecelia and Grey Wolf?