Monday, September 18, 2006

Chick Book Club: The Pact

I heart Jodi Picoult. I've said it before, but I love reading her novels. I was despondent for about a week when I thought I had lost my copy of "The Pact", of which I was only about halfway through, but then danced a jig when I found it again, wedged awkwardly between the wall and my night table and the corner of my bed. Damn kids, always moving stuff. Makes me think I should make my bed more often, but I digress...

So "The Pact" - I finished it this weekend and it's still filtering through my brain. Like all Jodi Picoult novels, it sucked me in and then stuck with me, making me think about the scenario presented in the book and how I would handle it if it were happening to me. And again, there is no clear right answer. She sort of leaves you hanging, which normally I don't like (I like things neatly wrapped up, usually) but is also why her stories stay with me.

This one is about teen suicide. And now I'm even more skittish about my kids as adolescents.

In the novel, two families end up living next to each other in suburban utopia (like where I live now) as they are both starting their families. They each have a child within a few months of each other - a boy for one, a girl for the other. The mothers become fast best friends and spend large chunks of time together as the kids grow up. The families are intertwined and the kids are bonded as if they are family. The parents all want/hope that their kids will end up together, because that would be perfect. Right?

Well, as young teens and best friends they do start a romantic relationship. The parents couldn't be more happy about it. Only at some point, it starts to feel strange for the girl, Emily. Like Chris is both her best friend, lover, and brother. She's conflicted. It turns out that as a girl of about 9 or 10 yrs old she was briefly molested by a stranger. A one-time ordeal in a mens restroom (on a dare by Chris) that she told no one about. It had long-reaching effects on her. So when she and Chris became intimate, she struggled.

Then she became pregnant. At 17 yrs old. She, not surprisingly, is shocked and scared and doesn't know what to do. She feels trapped. If she tells Chris then he'll marry her. She loves him, but feels trapped by this scenario because he's sort of her brother. It's too close. She tries to terminate the pregnancy, but flips out and can't go through with it. She can't tell her parents because she fears what they'll think of her, and they'll probably want her to marry Chris, and she simply cannot do that. So where does that leave her?

No one saw it coming. No one suspected anything. She seemed like the same, happy, well-adjusted girl she'd always been. But she was hiding a secret. She told Chris she wanted to kill herself. He blew her off. She told him again. He didn't want to listen. She told him again, and that's when he started paying attention. He can't imagine his life without Emily. He doesn't want her to do it, of course, but they're so bonded, so close, that he feels her dispair even if he doesn't know it's source. He thinks he can get her to change her mind. She convinces him she just wants the pain to stop but she needs his help. They make plans for The Night she wants to do it. He brings the gun and two bullets. They drive to a special place, but she can't do it. She wants him to do it for her. He can't imagine living without Emily.

Emily is dead and Chris is arrested. He says it was a botched double-suicide. He's sent to jail to await his trial. No one knows what happened, not even Chris himself. The parents, the best of friends for 18 years, are struggling. It's impacting the marriages and their friendships. Did the son of one kill the daughter of another? It's unthinkable. But the alternative is that both kids were suicidal and none of the parents saw it coming. Are they to blame for this?

The novel flips from THEN to NOW chapters, bouncing back and forth in time. You go deep into their history growing up - memories, key events, etc. You explore each of the parents and what makes them tick. You get inside the heads of the kids at different times. You feel what they feel. You want to reach out and hug Emily, who hurts so deeply but doesn't show it. You want to hug her parents, who love her more than anything but lost her. It scares me to think that teens can live such a double life that their families know nothing about. You can do all the right things as a parent, but still have no idea of what's really going on with your child. That's what this novel did for me: scare me about the teenaged years to come with my kids.

It is a very gripping story. I couldn't put it down (except for that week or so when I couldn't find the book. Gah!) It ends with Chris's trial. Everything seems to come out at the trial and you finally learn what happened that night. But it still leaves you hanging with questions that will always remain unanswered.

Read this book. Read every Jodi Picoult novel you can. They are so richly written with details that paint a very real picture and provide you with such insight into the characters. I can't wait to sink my teeth into yet another one. I'm never disappointed and I'm sure you won't be, either.

I read this book and am a big Jodi Picoult fan. The first one I read was Keeping Faith. A must read as well.
Being the mom of a teenager, I was devastated by this book. The double life, high expectations, the lies only to see it end so tragically. The PRESSURE these parents put on their kids overwhelmed ME, a reader. Kinda made me step back and think for a minute. I was disturbed by this book and in a funk for I don't know how long.
Next on my reading adgenda is Vanishing Act. Have you read Plain Truth? A page turner too.

BTW - Yeah for Nick's first goal. We had to do a Spongebob birthday. Ugghhh
The "Lifetime" movie based on the book is pretty good, too.

If you like Jodi Picoult, you should check out Ann Packer. My favorite of her books is "The Dive From Clausen Pier."
Way to give away the ENTIRE plot.
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