Friday, January 3, 2014

Eugenics, Ghosts, and Ethics with a Dash of Love Keep Interest High in SECOND GLANCE

"Love's not a because, it's a no matter what."

Did you know that Nazi scientists cited American eugenics programs as the foundation for their own plans for racial hygiene?

Did you know that in the early 30's there were scientists who created the Eugenics Survey of Vermont to study heredity and create family trees to determine which lines needed to be sterilized to reduce "problematic" citizens. Yep. All true.

That was one of the kernel of ideas that Jodi Picoult used to create SECOND GLANCE. I heard her speak recently. She was wonderful! She's quite an engaging speaker and storyteller. She spoke of the lengths she goes to research her books. She explained the background for three different books. SECOND GLANCE involved the eugenics in Vermont, mentioned earlier, as well as how she learned about the life of a ghost hunter.

She detailed a ghost hunting trip that left her, and the audience, with chills and questions. The final kernel in her idea was information she read about a little known Indian tribe called Abenaki. After her fascinating speech, the one book I knew I had to read was this one. I love when authors combine completely different ideas to come up with an original story.

Your Quickie summary: When an old man puts a piece of land up for sale in Vermont, the local Abenaki Indian tribe protest, claiming it is a burial ground, and when odd, supernatural events start plaguing the town, a ghost hunter is hired by the developer to help convince residents that there is nothing spiritual about the property.

Ross Wakeman hunts ghosts with a grim determination to find one specific ghost. His lost love, Aimee. After quitting in frustration, he inadvertently gets involved in one last case. The small Vermont town where he goes to visit his sister begins to experience strange occurrences, including rose petals falling like rain, ladybugs swarming only north-facing windows, and large patches of frozen ground in August. The town believes that land sold to a developer is haunted by Abenaki Indians and causing the unexplained occurrences all over town. While investigating, Ross discovers someone unexpected, as well as a 70-year-old mystery involving a woman and her baby.

Picoult weaves together several lives and two time periods to form a fascinating story of despair and hope, loneliness and love, and science and the supernatural. As in MY SISTER'S KEEPER, she brings up the myriad of ethical dilemmas wrapped up the most recent scientific advancements in genetics. She brings the eugenics from the 30's and puts it up against today's practices of gene therapy. If you can select from among your embryos finding one without disease, how is that so far from choosing the eye color, hair color, or sex of your child. Where's the line?

The book is beautifully written. The characters are memorable. The complicated story lines weave and intertwine brilliantly. There is a lot to think about and enjoy in SECOND GLANCE.

This is an adult book, appropriate for older teens, as are all of Jodi Picoult's books, except for the one YA book she wrote with her daughter - BETWEEN THE LINES.