Sunday, September 06, 2009

109 (2009 #34). The Pact

by Jodi Picoult

The Dallas Morning News says, “Picoult has carved her own niche with her novels – one part romance, one part courtroom thriller, two parts social commentary,” and The Pact certainly fits. There are many similarities between this book and the other two of Picoult's that I've read, My Sister's Keeper and especially Nineteen Minutes. In the latter, the two main teenage characters (Peter and Josie) have also been friends nearly from birth like Chris and Emily, as have their mothers (Lacey and Alex respectively), and the mothers' friendship is negatively affected as is Gus' and Melanie's. Peter, like Chris, is also accused of murder. Jordan McAfee is the defense lawyer in both. And, in both, the book jumps back and forth between present and past.

The “pact” refers to the supposed botched suicide pact that is Chris’ defense when he is charged with murdering Emily. Trouble is, Chris really did shoot the depressed and (unknown to him) pregnant Emily, at her request. The reader learns this early on. The book is really more about the characters: the progression (through flashback) of Chris and Emily’s relationship from childhood friendship to sex, the dissolution of the parents’ friendships after Emily’s death, and Chris’ growing awareness of himself and that Emily was not all that he thought she was.

The weakest character is Emily. Her molestation in a men’s restroom at age nine is downplayed, both by Picoult and by Emily herself, but it’s never very clear why this teenager wanted to kill herself and take her supposed best friend with her. As one gets to know her mother, Melanie, one can see why Emily, her only child, did not confide in her. I really disliked Melanie. Probably what cemented it for me was the way she purposely misdirected the patrons at her library (pages 75-76) - being a librarian, that REALLY offended me.

This book did generate some good discussion in an online group, about whether or not one can be too close to a non-relative, parental and societal expectations of relationships, and the making and breaking of friendships.

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