Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Jodi Picoult: The Pact

I read My Sister's Keeper years ago and was blown away. Then I watched the movie in which Cameron Diaz (?!) amazed me. It's crazy how it seems she finally learned how to act. And... well.... forgot how to do it again right after the movie was wrapped. 
The Pact was on my to-read list for almost as long as My Sister's Keeper. The story intrigued me, what I've read of it on the back of the book. Here's what it says:
"The Hartes and the Golds have lived next door to each other for eighteen years. They have shared everything from family picnics to chicken pox – so it's no surprise that in high school Chris and Emily's friendship blossoms into something more.
When the midnight calls come in from the hospital, no one is prepared: Emily is dead at seventeen from a gunshot wound to the head, inflicted by Chris as part of an apparent suicide pact. He tells the police the next bullet was meant for himself. A local detective has her doubts. And the Hartes and Golds must face every parent's worst nightmare and question: do we ever really know our children at all?"
Enough to get me hooked, I suppose. Knowing Picoult is famous for her controversial subjects, twists and right-wrong stances, I wanted to know. What brought star-crossed lovers to such a decision when they supposedly had everything? What could possibly go wrong?
So the real deal is Emily and Christopher meet in the hospital, about an hour after Emily was born. The Hartes and the Golds became neighbors when both women were pregnant. When Emily's mother went into labour, it was Chris's mother who took her to the hospital (accompanied by 6-month-old Chris, mind). When the little girl was born, they put him next to her in the bassinet. And that's just telling enough of how this story goes. The two families are joined by the hip and so Emily and Chris grown up in a similar fashion. Half the time it seems like they're brother and sister and after initial tween poking and shoving and offending each other they realize maybe that's not what they're really after. When the first kiss happens, it was a long time coming and seems no one is more thrilled than the parents themselves.

 "I, um, I have this problem. I broke up with my boyfriend, you see. And I'm pretty upset about it, so I wanted to talk to my best friend. [...] The thing is, they're both you."

Whatever more I say could be a possible spoiler and as always I am avoiding that completely. So tread a bit carefully from here on.

I read that Jodi Picoult herself said that she knew she had a page turner on her hands. Instead of a character study of a survivor guilt. Read here what she was initially planning on writing about. It made me curious to see what would actually happen. In her first idea Emily was supposed to be the one who survives. I wonder what the reason for suicide was in that first draft. Because Emily's (hi)story is burdening her with two secrets. Neither of those she can tell Chris. One is indirectly partially his fault and one is their parents' fault. Now why on earth couldn't Emily just tell someone, anyone and not be such a wussy little girl? She annoyed the living hell out of me, to be very honest. I understood why she was acting the way she was but she should have known Chris enough to know he would never turn away from her. In any way. Even I knew Chris well enough to know that!!! OK, so why? Hm. Because she was a teenager. Do you remember your teenage years? No one understanding you? Thinking that every little thing you do, are or say can haunt you for the rest of your life straight into your grave? That a rumor can be the end of the world? That someone not calling would make you a lifelong virgin? It took me a little while to stop being so upset with her. Only that she had a much much bigger problem than the usual teenager does.
It did not escape me that the surnames of the families create a Heart (of) Gold. And that Emily was the Heart of the relationship and Chris was the Gold. Meaning that everything evolved around her (including her incredibly selfish need to end her own life instead of dealing with the truth) and he was the one who loved her with his entire being and everything he could possibly feel or think was related to her. I wasn't surprised when Chris relates his first memories to his psychiatrist and they ALL involved Emily. Of course they did. Their parents made sure they knew how incredibly connected they were. Two parts of a whole. 
It was painful to watch how Emily's mother Melanie was quick to find blame elsewhere. And almost gratefully point the finger at Chris. She seemed to be waiting for someone to blame in every situation on every occasion. "I knew my daughter!" Um, the hell you did. My mother did not (and still doesn't!) know the first thing about the person I was when I was 17. It was equally painful to watch Chris's mother Gus realize one of Emily's secrets. Feeling it on her own skin. When the whole thing came to a close, I wondered how guilty did Michael, Emily's dad, feel for believing Chris (despite everything), visiting him and helping him.
It's clear to see that Chris will never recover from what happened. Either way. But what bothered me the most was that *************SPOILERS************** Emily's mother found her daughter's journal in which the girl clearly stated that Chris did not know she was pregnant, felt like sister to her boyfriend and possibly even spoke of being abused. And yet she burnt it and pretended it never existed. I was severely upset that those details were never uncovered. Perhaps it would take another book to swim through Chris's guilt for her not feeling like she could open up to him and tell him those things but I still think he would find more peace knowing. Maybe Picoult was honoring her secrets by not uncovering them but I thought that was a huge miss. All in all the book was a page turner indeed but I felt a bit ripped off.

Here is a trailer to the Lifetime movie (2002). Watch if you dare. I was cringing like mad. It looks *really* bad. Like one of those Mexican soap operas. But it was Picoult's first movie adaptation so maybe she's learned. I liked My Sister's Keeper way better. The rest I'm yet to see.

"Do you know what it's like to love someone so much, that you can't see yourself without picturing her? Or what it's like to touch someone, and feel like you've come home? What we had wasn't about sex, or about being with someone just to show off what you've got, the way it was for other kids our age. We were, well, meant to be together. Some people spend their whole lives looking for that one person. I was lucky enough to have her all along."

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