Wednesday, May 20, 2009

By the Chapter, Day 2 - Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Welcome to By the Chapter, an event hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. We will be reading and discussing Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult.

Synopsis from publisher:

In nineteen minutes, you can mow the front lawn, color your hair, watch a third of a hockey game. In nineteen minutes, you can bake scones or get a tooth filled by a dentist; you can fold laundry for a family of five....In nineteen minutes, you can stop the world, or you can just jump off it. In nineteen minutes, you can get revenge.

Sterling is a small, ordinary New Hampshire town where nothing ever happens -- until the day its complacency is shattered by a shocking act of violence. In the aftermath, the town's residents must not only seek justice in order to begin healing but also come to terms with the role they played in the tragedy. For them, the lines between truth and fiction, right and wrong, insider and outsider have been obscured forever. Josie Cormier, the teenage daughter of the judge sitting on the case, could be the state's best witness, but she can't remember what happened in front of her own eyes. And as the trial progresses, fault lines between the high school and the adult community begin to show, destroying the closest of friendships and families.

Nineteen Minutes is New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult's most raw, honest, and important novel yet. Told with the straightforward style for which she has become known, it asks simple questions that have no easy answers: Can your own child become a mystery to you? What does it mean to be different in our society? Is it ever okay for a victim to strike back? And who -- if anyone -- has the right to judge someone else?

Marcia started out our discussion on Monday, and if you need to catch up, you can read her post here.

My thoughts:

I am just about halfway through this novel, and it is classic Picoult. Take a provocative situation, throw in characters on both sides of the action, add the promise of a tense courtroom drama, and stir in some teenage angst, and you've got another page-turner from this popular author. I'll be honest and say I was wary - Picoult can sometimes be great for me (My Sister's Keeper), and sometimes very disappointing (The Tenth Circle), AND I had just read Wally Lamb's most recent novel which dealt with a similar situation (The Hour I First Believed), so I didn't know what to expect when I picked up Nineteen Minutes. Thankfully, so far I am completely engrossed.

One of the things I appreciate most about Picoult is her ability to tell all the sides of a story - we hear from the victims, the perpetrators, the families of each - and she shows that everybody has both good and bad in them. In this particular story, the character I am feeling the most sympathy for right now is Lacy, the mother of the teenaged boy who has committed the crime. I can't imagine being a parent, waking up thinking everything is fine, and then finding out your child has done something like this. Picoult describes the scene when Lacy first discovers her son is the perpetrator:

"Everything around Lacy slowed - the pulse of the ambulances, the pace of the running students, the round sounds that fell from the lips of this girl. Maybe she had misheard. She glanced up at the girl again, and immediately wished she hadn't. The girl was sobbing. Over her shoulder her mother stared at Lacy with horror, and then carefully pivoted to shield her daughter from view, as if Lacy were a basilisk - as if her very stare could turn you to stone.

There must be some mistake, please let there be a mistake, she thought, even as she looked around at the carnage and felt Peter's name swell like a sob in her throat."

I always wonder what it's like for the families of these criminals - the Columbine shooters, the Craigslist killer - how horrible would it be to suddenly find out someone you loved could do something like that. Picoult gives her readers stunning insight into their minds and hearts in this novel.

It's a little strange to say I am enjoying a novel about such a dark subject, but I honestly am - it's well written, with great character insight, and lots of suspense. I can't wait to keep reading, to see where the author takes us next!

Make sure to stop by for the final installment of this week's By the Chapter - Marcia and I will both be posting our closing thoughts on Friday.


Marcia said...

When we read/hear/see these events (school shootings) in the media I do always wonder about the parents or family life. How could they not have known that something wasn't right in their child's world. How did it all go so off track? But then you realize that children are very adept at hiding their feelings and emotions. Just like adults they can make you believe what they want you to see. And it's easier to lie to ourselves then to deal.

As much as I feel for Lacy I'm still a bleeding heart, to a large degree, for Peter. I just can't shake his character from my mind. I'm always wondering what drives a person to the point of desperation, especially a kid/child. Where did we fail this person?

This is classic Picoult and like you it's weird to say I'm enjoying a book about such a dark subject but she drew me right in the lives of her characters.

bermudaonion said...

I enjoyed this book too. Lacy's mother did anger me at times, though.