You always learn so much when you read a novel by Jodi Picoult. It might be about humpback whales, organ transplants, elephants, the Holocaust, school shootings, wolves, suicide or music therapy. Picoult’s research is impeccable and exhaustive.
Her latest novel The Book of Two Ways is no different. This time her main character Dawn is a death doula. I had heard of death doulas before but I didn’t know much about the profession. The Book of Two Ways provided me with valuable insight into the services they offer and how important their work can be for many families.
Dawn was studying to be an Egyptologist before she became a death doula and so we also learn all about ancient Egypt. We are introduced to Egyptian gods, family structure, literature and geography as well as the modern archaeological methods used to unearth and study artefacts in Egypt.
Although I enjoyed learning about death doulas and Egypt while I read The Book of Two Ways, I felt like Jodi’s desire to inform and enlighten us about those topics interfered with the drama of the story. At some points, several consecutive pages were dedicated to helping us understand new concepts complete with diagrams and that tended to take me out of the story.
This was not the case with the last two Jodi Picoult books I read Small Great Things which was about white supremacy and racism or A Spark of Light which addressed the abortion issue. In those novels, I felt she struck a better balance between the drama of the story and the thought-provoking information she wanted to relay.
In The Book of Two Ways Dawn, our protagonist is trying to make a tough decision. Should she stay with her physicist husband Brian and their teenage daughter Meret with whom she has built a rewarding and comfortable life in Boston? Or should she go back to Wyatt a man she loved passionately in the past? He was a fellow archaeologist when she was a graduate student doing an internship in Egypt.
Although one learns to expect surprise endings in a Picoult novel I was not a fan of the ending in this book.