From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Small Great Things and The Book of Two Ways comes “a powerfully evocative story of resilience and the triumph of the human spirit” (Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of Malibu Rising)
Rights sold to Netflix for adaptation as a feature film
Diana O’Toole is perfectly on track. She will be married by thirty, done having kids by thirty-five, and move out to the New York City suburbs, all while climbing the professional ladder in the cutthroat art auction world. She’s an associate specialist at Sotheby’s now, but her boss has hinted at a promotion if she can close a deal with a high-profile client. She’s not engaged just yet, but she knows her boyfriend, Finn, a surgical resident, is about to propose on their romantic getaway to the Galápagos—days before her thirtieth birthday. Right on time.
But then a virus that felt worlds away has appeared in the city, and on the eve of their departure, Finn breaks the news: It’s all hands on deck at the hospital. He has to stay behind. You should still go, he assures her, since it would be a shame for all of their nonrefundable trip to go to waste. And so, reluctantly, she goes.
Almost immediately, Diana’s dream vacation goes awry. Her luggage is lost, the Wi-Fi is nearly nonexistent, and the hotel they’d booked is shut down due to the pandemic. In fact, the whole island is now under quarantine, and she is stranded until the borders reopen. Completely isolated, she must venture beyond her comfort zone. Slowly, she carves out a connection with a local family when a teenager with a secret opens up to Diana, despite her father’s suspicion of outsiders.
In the Galápagos Islands, where Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection was formed, Diana finds herself examining her relationships, her choices, and herself—and wondering if when she goes home, she too will have evolved into someone completely different.
Picoult's beguiling page-turner revisits the premise of two alternate worlds, as explored in 2020's The Book of Two Ways, this time with the Covid-19 pandemic as a backdrop. It's March 13, 2020, in New York City, the day after Broadway theaters shut down because of a new contagious virus. Diana O'Toole, an associate specialist with Sotheby's, is on the verge of closing a career-changing deal and expecting her boyfriend, Finn, to propose. But Finn, a surgeon, has just been informed he cannot take their planned Gal pagos Islands vacation because the hospital needs all hands on deck for the predicted inundation of virus-infected patients. One couldn't ask for more opposite places: the isolated Pacific Ocean islands with native iguanas, prehistoric turtles, and exotic flora and fauna, and the grim world of packed ICU wards, staff burnout, and the debilitating reality of an onslaught of deaths that cannot be stopped or prevented. In the Gal pagos, Diana befriends a teenage girl, begins an affair with the girl's father, and second-guesses her conformist, status-oriented life plans. While a major plot twist feels both contrived and implausible, it serves to examine how catastrophes can strain the characters' relationships while time apart can inspire complex soul-searching. As always, Picoult is eminently readable, though even the author's fans will find some of this wanting.