The Book of Two Ways- a Love Letter to Jodi Picoult

The Book of Two Ways, by Jodi Picoult
Goodreads ¦ Amazon
Series?: No
Publisher: Ballantine
Release Date: September 22, 2020
Length: 448 pages
Source: ARC
Format: Paperback
Times Read: Once
Rating: 5/5

Rating: 5 out of 5.

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Small Great Things and A Spark of Light comes a riveting novel about the choices that change the course of our lives.

Everything changes in a single moment for Dawn Edelstein. She’s on a plane when the flight attendant makes an announcement: prepare for a crash landing. She braces herself as thoughts flash through her mind. The shocking thing is, the thoughts are not of her husband, but a man she last saw fifteen years ago: Wyatt Armstrong.

Dawn, miraculously, survives the crash, but so do all the doubts that have suddenly been raised. She has led a good life. Back in Boston, there is her husband, Brian, her beloved daughter, and her work as a death doula, where she helps ease the transition between life and death for patients in hospice.

But somewhere in Egypt is Wyatt Armstrong, who works as an archaeologist unearthing ancient burial sites, a job she once studied for, but was forced to abandon when life suddenly intervened. And now, when it seems that fate is offering her second chances, she is not as sure of the choice she once made.

After the crash landing, the airline ensures the survivors are seen by a doctor, then offers transportation wherever they want to go. The obvious option for Dawn is to continue down the path she is on and go home to her family. The other is to return to the archaeological site she left years before, reconnect with Wyatt and their unresolved history, and maybe even complete her research on The Book of Two Ways–the first known map of the afterlife.

As the story unfolds, Dawn’s two possible futures unspool side by side, as do the secrets and doubts long buried beside them. Dawn must confront the questions she’s never truly asked: What does a life well-lived look like? When we leave this earth, what do we leave behind? Do we make choices…or do our choices make us? And who would you be, if you hadn’t turned out to be the person you are right now?

A new Jodi book is a balm to my soul, every time.

I’ve been reading Ms. Picoult for many moons, and I trust no author more than her to get it right. Her writing is beautiful, her voice is clear, and her publishing consistent. Since 1992, we’ve been able to count on a new book from her nearly every year.

Jodi has published 25 books, the last 9 (NINE!!!) of which debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list.

One of the best things about picking up a book from Jodi is knowing how fully investigated it was. She is scrupulous, from reading everything she can about a topic to actually living with an Amish family. The FAQ section of her website is full of great information like this!

How do you do your research?

“Meticulously. I hate catching authors in inaccuracies when I’m a reader, so I’m a stickler when I’m writing. At this point, I have several folks on call for me during a book – a few lawyers, a couple of psychiatrists, some doctors, a pathologist, a DNA scientist, a handful of detectives. When I start researching, I read everything I can about a topic. Then I meet with an “expert”. Some things are harder to find out about than others – getting the head of launch operations at NASA to fit me into his schedule, for example; or making a series of connections that landed me in the home of an Amish farmer for a week. These are some of the things I’ve done in the name of research: Watched Sly Stallone on a movie set (for Picture Perfect); observed cardiac surgery (Harvesting the Heart); gone to jail for the day (The Pact); milked cows on an Amish dairy farm (Plain Truth); learned Wiccan love spells and DNA testing procedures (Salem Falls); explored bone marrow transplants (Perfect Match); gone ghost hunting (Second Glance). For Vanishing Acts, I spent time in a hardcore Arizona jail, and met with both detention officers and inmates (learning, among other things, how to make my own zip gun and the recipe for crystal meth); and went to the Hopi reservation to attend their private katsina dances. For The Tenth Circle, I trekked to the Alaskan tundra to visit a remote Eskimo village and to follow a dogsled race on a snowmobile – in January, when it was -38 degrees Fahrenheit. For Lone Wolf, I spent time with a man who lived in the wild with a wolf pack for a year – and got to meet some other wolves he has in captivity. For The Storyteller, I spoke with the real-life head of the department of justice division that tracks down Nazi war criminals. For Leaving Time, I spent time in Botswana with elephant researchers, at an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee, and with Chip Coffey – a wonderful psychic! For SMALL GREAT THINGS I interviewed two former Skinheads – everything you read about Turk in that book actually happened to one of those two men. For A Spark of Light, I shadowed an abortion provider, observed multiple procedures, and interviewed 151 women who had terminated a pregnancy…as well as those who were pro-life.”

For me, reading Jodi is like taking a masters class wrapped in a compelling story. I am always incredibly invested in the characters and the plot, but in the back of my mind I also know that everything I’m learning is true. I can count on it to be correct, to be real, to feel confident in my belief that I now know this.

I’ve learned tons of medical details: bone marrow transplants, organ donation, leukemia, osteogenesis imperfecta. Jodi has taught me about death row, that wolves can smell and alert you to things like cancer while also licking your wounds clean. I learned that elephants are The Best, letting the women do the work. They remember everything, they actually grieve the loss of a herd member, they have broken into research stations to steal bones back and return them to the death site. Jodi made me uncomfortable with myself and my white privilege, because of her I had to really let down my defenses and examine some things about myself that I didn’t like so much in the end.

The best writing shows you both sides of the story, and no one does that better than Jodi. A Spark of Light is about an abortion clinic and the different people that are there any given day. Allow me to quote myself from last year’s review:

“Now, this may be a shock to you (just kidding this should in no way be a shock to you), but I’m an extreme liberal, and it was a real mind f*ck to be in the head of anti-choicer (friendly reminder that pro-life does not exist, you are either pro or anti choice). Even though I never agreed with her, I kind of could see how she got there? I could sort of understand her motivations? It was super unpleasant, much like reading Ellen Hopkins’ latest, People Kill People was, but important as well. Change doesn’t occur unless you’re willing to look at someone with a different opinion as a real person with valid thoughts and feelings, and getting you into their head is an effective way to do that.”

This is something you can always count on from a Jodi Picoult book. If you’re reading about pro-choice, you’re gonna have to read about anti-choice too (another friendly reminder that pro-life does not exist, you are either pro- or anti-choice). If she gives you a book about a school shooting and the aftermath, you’re also gonna have to be in the head of the shooter. And for a book centered on racism, you’ll get a main character that’s Black, but you’ll also have to be in the mind of a skinhead sometimes.

And this can really mess with you! Reading about the opposite of something you have very strong opinions on usually makes me initially dismissive, because obviously I Am Right. But if I can let go a little, I just might learn something new. I’ve never changed a fundamental belief that I had going in, but I have seen the other side. I’ve figured out how a person could get to where they ended up, even if I don’t like it. Even if I hate it.

An actual Book of Two Ways

Jodi’s newest book asks you to “Picture the person you thought you’d wind up with.” Is it the person you did end up with? The answer, apparently, is usually no. No matter how much you love your partner, no matter how good you are together, there was just usually someone before that you thought was gonna be it.

I gotta tell you, this gave me the biggest sense of relief. Because I love the husband. I do. He’s funny, he’s smart, he’s super cute, he’s finally a doctor, he’s an excellent doggie daddy.

We have been married for TEN YEARS it’s wild.


But he’s not who I thought I’d end up with. And sometimes I do wonder, what would life be like if I’d chosen differently so many years ago? I’ve wondered where I’d be, who I’d be, if I would have *children*?

The other him in question, faces slightly obscured for anonymity, plus I’m not saying which one of them it is.

It was SO NICE to read an ENTIRE BOOK about a woman who also wonders this same thing. I don’t need to go to quite the same extremes as her, but I would like to SPEAK to my ex again. He’s never been on social media, he hasn’t responded to old email addresses, and all traditional means of trying to lightly stalk an ex-boyfriend have failed over the years.


Ahem. TL;DR: I loved this book and learned a lot about Egyptology and a tiny bit about quantum physics.

Favorite Quotes:

“If this is a garden of maybes, you are the invasive plant I can’t ever get rid of.”

“How can you even put into words the confession that you made a mistake, that you want to turn back time and try again?”

“Ancient Egyptians believed that the first and most necessary ingredient in the universe was chaos. It could sweep you away, but it was also the place from which all things start anew.”

“Did you ever wonder who you would have been, if you hadn’t become who you are?”

All quotes are taken from an uncorrected proof of the book

3 thoughts on “The Book of Two Ways- a Love Letter to Jodi Picoult

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