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. 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.
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.
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
Jodi Picoult’s 2021 release, Wish You Were Here, had been on my TBR radar for the past few months, given that this adult contemporary book is one of the first that has tackled the coronavirus pandemic. Given the hype and praise I’ve seen surrounding it, I knew I would pick it up at some point and then it was selected as the Bad on Paper Podcast book club pick for January – and after reading, I wish I had picked it up sooner!
Wish You Were Here was a really original story, and not necessarily just for the pandemic plot. Without spoilers, Wish You Were Here had the closest feeling to Rebecca Serle’s In Five Years out of all the books I’ve read since. I know the major hesitation many readers have had going in or before picking Wish You Were Here is the fact that the book is set during the early onset of the pandemic in March 2020. Sothebys art specialist, Diana, and her longtime boyfriend, Finn, have been planning on going on their dream vacation to the Galápagos, but when Finn, a medical resident, must stay in NYC to work in the hospital as the first covid cases pop up in the city, he still encourages Diana to go on the trip. As soon as Diana arrives on Isabela Island, the island is shutting down for two weeks and Diana makes the split second decision to stay. With a closed hotel, no Internet, and little resources, Diana finds herself befriending locals Gabriel and his teenage daughter, Beatriz, and questioning the life she’s planned at home.
It took me the first 80 or so pages to really settle into Wish You Were, but once Gabriel & Beatriz warm up to Diana, I found myself hooked.I really, REALLY don’t want to spoil anything about this book, but I will say that this book COMPLETELY took me by surprise halfway through, going in a direction I was not expecting whatsoever. It’s been a while that a book has had a plot twist that has taken me my complete surprised and at that point I seriously could not put Wish You Were Here down until the very end. For some more context, I picked up this book from the library Saturday morning, started reading it around 1 PM and aside from some small reading breaks, had it finished by 8 PM.
While I understand why some readers might stray away from this book given the pandemic, I actually didn’t mind it as a plot point. I think the book’s messages & themes can apply to any moment in life when the unexpected happens and you may forced to pivot or reconsider plans. There is some heaviness surrounding the pandemic in the first half of the book through Finn’s emails to Diana, in which he describes the covid patients he must treat every day in the hospital in March 2020, and the second half of the book delves very much into the early reality of the pandemic. The book also tackles loss and family relationships through the island locals (warnings for suicide and self-harm) Diana’s own family, as her father died unexpectedly years prior and her mother, a world renown photographer who was never really present in Diana’s life, has dementia.
I loved both the Galápagos and NYC settings. Diana’s time spent on Isabela Island was filled with such descriptive imagery, aka making me crave a destination trip or even just sunny beach weather ASAP. I really liked, although somber, seeing her get to know Beatriz and Gabriel… although their relationship development was another reason why I wasn’t expecting the twist…Regarding NYC & Diana’s personal life, Diana is an art specialist at Sothebys and has a talent for painting herself. I though this theme surrounding art and creativity was interesting and enjoyed flashing back to her work life, including, yes, the thinly veiled Yoko & John Lennon storyline as Diana is organizing the auction of an iconic paining owned by the widow. I’ve seen a few readers question why this was part of the story, but I think it foreshadowing and connected to Diana’s own life.
Overall, I really enjoyed Wish You Were Here and thought it was a thoughtful, and yes, binge-worthy & addicting, read. I don’t think I’ll necessarily be reaching for books that have the pandemic as part of the plot, but I can see myself picking up some of Jodi Picoult’s other books in the future!
Have you read Wish You Were Here? What are your thoughts? What books should I read by Jodi Picoult? Share in the comments!