The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Last Line First

        Jodi Picoult spoke at a local library last night. (Shay, eat your heart out although granted, Picoult is not Emmylou...That I would not dare try to rub in your face ;)

        Because Picoult is one of my favorite authors, I was looking forward to it. Because she was touring with her daughter (they have co-authored a young adult novel, Between the Lines), I imagined there would be moments that would not especially enjoyable. I wanted it all Jodi for the brief time she would be there...I wanted to hear about SingYouHomeandHandleWithCareandTheNinthCircle, not this new book.

      I was pleasantly surprised.

photo by ALA--the American Library Association
Jodi Picoult (on the left) and her daughter, Sammy

      Picoult's daughter, Samantha Van Leer, is an incredible reader; her voice colored her words perfectly as she read an excerpt from the book. It was also fascinating hearing how they worked together for the past three summers on this book.

       Several interesting tidbits were launched our way during the book talk:
  • Someone noted that many of Picoult's novels include a legal battle; they were curious why that was the case. The author explained that when she discovers a legal loophole, she is determined to include it in a book to "educate" the public. For example, she explained that she could not be forced to testify against her husband, but she could testify against her son or daughter. She jokingly admitted she would be much more likely to want to put away her husband than her kid.

  • Her novel Sing You Home has a main character who is a music therapist. This character also happens to be a lesbian. Picoult shared that while she was writing the book, her son came out. Interestingly, that book has brought more hate mail than all her other books combined--and there have been some awful things happening in her other novels. 

  • Someone in the audience complained how horrible the ending was in the movie version of Her Sister's Keeper. Picoult compared selling a book's movie rights to putting your child up for adoption. You hope they end up with loving parents, you hope they go to college and get married and have a family...but sometimes they grow up and become a hooker.

  • Before they even began writing the story, Samantha told her mother, "I know what the last line in the book should be." Apparently Picoult agreed, because they typed that line first, and as they started composing the story, they just kept typing above that first (last) line.

         I was determined to not buy a book, because Barnes and Noble (the sponsoring book seller) required audience members to buy a copy of the new book if they wanted to get only one additional book signed. However, after hearing the two authors speak, I am considering buying Between the Lines. It is written from several perspectives--as many (all?) of Picoult's novesl are--and centers around Delilah--a reader who is smitten with the hot prince in a fairy tale book and Oliver--the prince who is desperate to escape the tired story he is trapped in. What happens in a story when the book is closed? Do the characters remain frozen, waiting for the book to be cracked open once again? Or, do the characters in a book have a life all their own that they live whenever the book is put aside?

       If you're not familiar with Picoult's novels, check one out. Handle With Care  is one of my favorites. I also love Sing You Home. (My son is a music therapist, so this was the reason why I was initially drawn to the book.) Last night, Jodi spoke about how she is always conscientious about putting in all sides of an issue--even if that means she has to create a character whose views are repugnant to her--because she said, "It's not fair for me to preach to you and expect you to listen to me if I'm not listening to the viewpoint of others." (The narrow-minded minister in Sing You Home was disgusting to Picoult, but a necessary character.) 

       And thanks, Lynn, for coming last night. I love to watch sad movies by myself but other than that, things are better when you do them with a friend...


  1. Gosh Sioux, you captured the event perfectly. I'm so glad I went since I just recently read a Picoult book and now I'm a fan, and I want to read everything of hers, including this YA novel Between the Lines. I loved the idea of creating the ending line and working from there. Both Jodi and Samantha were amazing speakers. It was fun hanging with you!

  2. Dig the matching red shoes! What an interesting evening. I love to attend book signings, and this one must have been especially fun. Yeah, that Pastor Clive Lincoln character was something else, but well drawn. That book also included as a minor character, that oddest of ducks, an "ex" gay. I really loved Sing You Home except for one two line exchange near the end. I disliked that so much that I wrote to the author last Sunday morning and actually received a personal reply from her before the morning was out. By the way, I was surprised and saddened to hear that she received hate mail about SYH. What's the matter with people? I wonder how many of them actually read the book?

    Two things: hands off Emmylou, she's mine! And, send your hitter! (I have answered your comment on site.)

  3. Have never read any of her work, but you're making me want to!

  4. Lynn--You're fun to hang out with as well. Yes, I'm glad I went too.

    Fireblossom--Since I checked out "Sing You Home" from the library, I can't go back searching for the two-line exchange you disliked. Would you send it my way (along with a bit of context clues, since it's been over a year for me) either in the comment section here or email?

    Also, Picoult thought the same thing. "Don't people have better things to do?" She does write back to her readers--especially to the frothing-at-the-mouth haters--and tries to convince them to read the book. (Most of them have NOT read "Sing You Home" but will still write, "You and your son are going to hell.") She says that occasionally, a sender of hate mail will write back, say they read the book, and think they should NOT follow the thinking of their church. And Picoult explained, "That's all I can ask for."

    I would LOVE to find out what Picoult wrote you. Share, please, if you don't mind.

    (And good god, Shay, there's no way I'd even try to suck up any of the air surrounding Emmylou Harris, let alone reach out and try to grab her from you...I'd be left with a bloody stump.)

  5. Tammy--I'd be glad to loan you one. She does an amazing amount of research, and the stories are always full of some twists and turns.

  6. Thanks for the recap. I've heard a lot about Picoult's writing, but have never read one of her books. I need to check them out.

  7. I am not up-to-date on my Picoult-reading. The last two were Nineteen Minutes and Salem Falls. I have My Sister's Keeper stacked around here somewhere, but have never started it.

  8. Hi Sioux ~ Thanks for all the info. I've only read one book by Jodi Picoult and it was quite a long time ago...her 2nd novel: "Harvesting the Heart," published in 1995! I borrowed it from the library and honestly don't remember anything about it...other than I loved it. Don't really know why I never read any others....

  9. I loved My sister's keeper book and HATED the movie!! Thank you very much for sharing the author's feeling about it.

  10. Donna and Val--Her books are worth checking out. They're also worth digging out of your "must read" stack.

    MZ--It was an enjoyable evening. AND, it was free.

    Becky--You're welcome.

    OJ--The whole audience groaned when the movie was mentioned. I read the book but bypassed the movie. I guess I was fortunate?

  11. How interesting that she had the last line and worked from there--I almost always have my last line, then have to find a way to get from the beginning (Ugh--I hate beginnings) to that last line.

    I read Picoult's "The Tenth Circle" and thought it was interesting--but I suppose I wasn't interested enough. I've never read another of hers.BUT this one sounds pretty good--

    (And let me just say that I agree with your stand re: B & N--I can't remember being at a book signing where I had to buy a book from the bookseller as some kind of signing condition. What the heck???)


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