The problem with reading Jodi Picoult’s books

I love Jodi Picoult’s books. In fact I can rave about them and the way that she creates such a sense of being there with the characters until I am blue in the face.  I love her work so much I went to the book signing for Sing You Home in Manchester and couldn’t stop tweeting about it, under my then user name of @halfbloodme.  I adore her work so completely and utterly, because it’s engrossing and captivating.  And let’s not forget that Jodi herself is an amazing human being who has time for we aspiring authors who are fans of her work.

But here is my issue.  Jodi writes so well that it’s impossible to put her books down and her subject matter is rarely easy to deal with.  Don’t get me wrong that’s what I love about her work too, because her subject matter is usually related to things that society has labelled as taboo.

I am currently re-reading Perfect Match.  Which if I had thought about it, I would probably have left on the shelf for a time when I wasn’t confronting some past issues.  Salem Falls would not have been a good one either, but as I have let a good friend borrow that one, it wasn’t in my line of view, even though it’s my favourite book by Jodi.  The truth is, with my health being the way it is at the moment, I wanted an old friend to settle down with.  And Jodi’s books, whilst provocative and tear jerking, are old friends.  They challenge the reader and the characters become people you know.  So on picking up Perfect Match, I must have forgotten that it was in the mental box labelled ‘only when you aren’t living alone and dealing with stress’.

In Perfect Match, Nina Frost, a prosecuting A.D.A. is thrown into a world of hell as her own family experiences what so many children she deals with in court have experienced, when her son, five-year-old Nathaniel is sexually abused.  Big. Fat. Warning. Sign. Nat.  I picked it up without checking which one it was and I didn’t look at the cover and started reading.  I know better than to do that with Jodi’s books.  Once I start reading, I can’t stop.  It’s not as simple as “Why don’t you pick another book?”  It’s a complicated mess of emotions that I need to go through to get to the end and then put it to rest, stick it back in my mental box and forget about it for a while at least.

Until I was handed Salem Falls, all those years ago, by my then girlfriend, I had never found an author’s work who compelled me to keep reading even though every fibre in my being was telling me to run for the wind.  I don’t deal well with emotional issues.  I don’t have the ability to process them the way most people do.  I tend to cope very badly with emotions.  And yet, Jodi’s books always manage to give me a resolution.  It may not be the one I’m looking for, but when I read one of her books, I know by the end of it, I’m going to sit there and have a calm about me which I didn’t have before.  Because during the course of the book, I will find a character who I can identify a part of me with.  It can be the smallest part, but it’s there, and through that character, I can find a resolution for my own issues.  As that character works towards whatever resolution they find, I have a connection and I begin to work towards my own.

The truth is, it can be the mother in My Sister’s Keeper who helps me to see what my mother dealt with in being so desperate to do anything to keep me, the baby she had always wanted, that she immediately agreed to the heart surgery that saw me die twice on the table and which, although no one can say for certain, has probably led to several of my health issues today.  It can be Nina Frost and the way in which the life she has so lovingly crafted falls apart around her, Emma Hunt in House Rules and the way she expects others to not understand her son’s Asperger’s (I think of my niece and nephew every time I read the blurb, let alone the book) or Zoe and Vanessa in Sing You Home, a book that deals so sensitively with the issues that face the LGBTQ community.

So yes, I’ll keep reading Perfect Match, knowing that it will tear me apart as I do.  But perhaps, this time, in Nina, or one of the other characters, I’ll heal a new part of myself and take a step towards being that person who no longer suffers the nightmares caused by memories of something I witnessed a long time ago.

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