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Friday, April 24, 2009

JODI PICOULT'S PERFECT MATCH

Jodi Piccoult is a best-selling author. Some of her readers practically live for her next book and find them powerful, emotional, compelling novels dealing with some of life’s moral and ethical questions. My first exposure, Perfect Match, does deal with a compelling moral question and does include intense emotions. It offers the reader some time to examine her own views. But I did not become a Jodi Piccoult fan.

Why then include this review in Third Age Traveler? Perfect Match is a good travel book despite its hefty 350 pages. It’s an escape. It would do well on a beach, well in a plane, and if you travel by car, well as an audio-book because you really don’t have to concentrate. Sometimes a book like this is exactly right. Besides, she’s worth a try; hordes of readers keep her on the NYTimes best seller list.

The plot has great potential. A prosecuting attorney, who deals with child molestation cases and who understands the trauma to children who must relive their experiences in order to testify, finds her own son is a victim. Knowing full well the distinct possibility that his molester will not be punished despite further trauma inflicted by the court system on her five year old boy, she feels being a good mother means protecting him at all costs. That’s intriguing. What does “at all costs” mean?

Piccoult creates a series of characters and a series of twists that made me want to finish the book. But so much of the plot was too much over the top. I who believe firmly in “willing suspension of disbelief” was pushed beyond my capability. The characters had potential but were not developed enough for me to get involved with them. As I reader, I want to be involved with the characters. The main character, Nina Frost, did not work for me. Her symbolic name, for instance, is like a hammer beating me on the head. For a prosecutor, she seems woefully unable to look beyond the next step. Still, the premise is believable, and I did not abandon the book.

Piccoult is, at best, a mediocre writer. I did like the idea that she tried to tell her story from the viewpoints of different characters. That approach lets the reader get inside the characters’ heads, and when it works, it is good. I appreciated this technique when she gives the son’s take on what is going on around him. His violation involves the entire family and potentially can tear it apart. Piccoult is able to focus on the trauma, not only on the event but also on the way it impacts an individual, a family, and a legal system.

Perfect Match is too long. A good editing excising 100 pages would have helped. Still, with all my hesitation, I finished the novel. Obviously I am torn. I also find that I am thinking about some of the points she does expose. There are other writers of this genre I enjoy more, so don’t count me in as a Jodi Piccoult fan. I rather talk about some of these issues with friends over a series of ice cold martinis.
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