Bibliophile | ‘The Book of Two Ways’ reflects on choices of the past

The Book of Two Ways
By Jodi Picoult
Allen & Unwin

Dawn Edelstein knows a lot about death. As a death doula (a death midwife), she helps people on their final journeys and tries to fulfill their last wishes. Fifteen years earlier, before she married and had a daughter, she was a graduate student in Egyptology, unearthing ancient secrets from a 4000 year old Egyptian tomb. For someone who surrounds herself with death, Dawn hasn’t thought a lot about her own death or the unfinished business she left in her previous life.

When the plane she is travelling in has a ‘planned emergency’, she decides to leave Boston and go back to the archeological dig in Egypt to sort out the mess of her life. Feeling distant from her quantum physicist husband Brian and challenged by her latest patient Win, she reconnects with Wyatt Armstrong and her project on the Book of Two Ways which is a map of the Afterlife that is written into the inside of a coffin.

Dawn contemplates that for people who know they are dying; not having the luxury of time makes it easier to see the things that are important. “If being a death doula has taught me anything, it’s that we know nothing about life. At least not until it’s too late. You have to be near death to understand why life matters, otherwise you don’t have perspective.”

With twenty-six award-winning books to her name, Jodi Picoult has become known for presenting moral quandaries to her readers in non-linear narratives. This book has more of a personal dilemma as Dawn tries to figure out what life would have been like if she had made different choices.

Alternating between Boston and Egypt, Dawn realises that she can go back but she can’t undo what has happened in the intervening years. This is a dilemma that often hits people as a mid-life crisis, where some people yearn for self-discovery and even reinvention. There’s plenty of self-reflection for the reader, as to what they are leaving behind and what they could have been if they’d made different choices.

Lezly Herbert


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