This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

This book has my brain reeling. So much that most likely, I will have to divvy up what I want to write in various posts. So in this one, I need to find a way to just describe the book. The next one (or few?) will be about other aspects that have my brain in a frenzy.

This is September's book club choice. This is the second book choice by the same novelist. I haven't read anything by Picoult until now and honestly, I wasn't too enthused by this choice.

She is a popular novelist and my stereotype of her was fluff novels. The movie My Sister's Keeper is based on a novel by Picoult and by golly, the previews for that movie made me sick, it seemed so Hollywood drama, so sappy. So I was instantly turned off by what I thought Picoult would be writing about.

"Nineteen Minutes"? I have nineteen minutes left to live? What do I do with that time? Love someone and declare it for 451 pages? I was trying hard not to think about how much pain I would be in, struggling to read this book for book club. In fact, I put down my second Harry Potter book (BTW, I don't think I am going to make my HP challenge) and decided to 'get this one over with' and read it right away.

But the opening paragraphs shut me up right away:
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.

And that is what this book is about: a bullied teen goes on a rampage at school and shoots 10 classmates dead, wounding 19 others. It goes through time, back and forth, where we meet the killer, his best friend, and their parents - when he is born, in Kindergarten, the days before the shooting, and the time after it.

Jodi Picoult does something very controversial, IMO: she has the reader (or just me) sympathizing with the killer. In at least one case, there is no love lost for one of the dead.

But she doesn't outline it Hollywood style and here comes the happy ending. She plays out both sides: see the killer - how he viewed the world and what he suffered over the years; see the victims and what they suffered; what the result of a horrific tragedy does to the survivors.

I am amazed at the amount of work and knowledge goes into making a book. It becomes apparent to me that I have no way I could ever write a novel. Not even a 'good' novel...just a novel! Picoult has perspective from a judge, a computer programmer (she even includes a bit of C++ in it!), a detective, a defense attorney, parents who grieve for their children killed, as well as parents who grieve for their killer son. So many perspectives with so much detail that she had to have spent years just gathering information to make it sound right.

And while this is fiction, I couldn't help replaying the scenes of Columbine. But the difference is "seeing" this from the parents of the killer *and* from the killer's perspective.

It is a fascinating concept that reminds me of some of the younger me. I was much more bleeding heart than I am now...and reading this book reminded me of my old self, although it had no effect on how I feel now.

I really didn't get too emotionally charged...just entranced by the story line. I did cry once: when Lacy, mom to the killer, recalls a moment in time when their family dog died and no one had any memories to recount of their dog...except for Peter, the killer. It was poignant but subtle. And it recounts a mother's pain for her son, seeing his tenderness and realizing he is also a monster.

Anyway, a very good creative story that has changed my mind about Picoult.

Although I still have no interest in reading, or watching, My Sister's Keeper.

1 comment:

  1. I felt the same way in reading this book... found myself sympathizing with the killer. In a bizarro way, it was sort of welcome to hear his side of the story. It makes you feel like there is more to these school shootings than we hear about in the aftermath... not that his decision was justified, but I could understand how it happened better. You might actually like My Sister's Keeper. I don't think it was nearly as sappy as the movie previews made it out to be. (I didn't see the movie, just read the book.) I liked it... it was a good dive into some medical ethics.