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The Book of Two Ways
Cover of The Book of Two Ways
The Book of Two Ways
A Novel
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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the author of Small Great Things and A Spark of Light comes a “powerful” (The Washington Post) novel about the choices that alter the...
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the author of Small Great Things and A Spark of Light comes a “powerful” (The Washington Post) novel about the choices that alter the...
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  • #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the author of Small Great Things and A Spark of Light comes a “powerful” (The Washington Post) novel about the choices that alter the course of our lives.
    NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY MARIE CLAIRE
    Everything changes in a single moment for Dawn Edelstein. She’s on a plane when the flight attendant makes an announcement: Prepare for a crash landing. She braces herself as thoughts flash through her mind. The shocking thing is, the thoughts are not of her husband but of a man she last saw fifteen years ago: Wyatt Armstrong.
    Dawn, miraculously, survives the crash, but so do all the doubts that have suddenly been raised. She has led a good life. Back in Boston, there is her husband, Brian, their beloved daughter, and her work as a death doula, in which she helps ease the transition between life and death for her clients.
    But somewhere in Egypt is Wyatt Armstrong, who works as an archaeologist unearthing ancient burial sites, a career Dawn once studied for but was forced to abandon when life suddenly intervened. And now, when it seems that fate is offering her second chances, she is not as sure of the choice she once made.
    After the crash landing, the airline ensures that the survivors are seen by a doctor, then offers transportation to wherever they want to go. The obvious destination is to fly home, but she could take another path: return to the archaeological site she left years before, reconnect with Wyatt and their unresolved history, and maybe even complete her research on The Book of Two Ways—the first known map of the afterlife.
    As the story unfolds, Dawn’s two possible futures unspool side by side, as do the secrets and doubts long buried with them. Dawn must confront the questions she’s never truly asked: What does a life well lived look like? When we leave this earth, what do we leave behind? Do we make choices . . . or do our choices make us? And who would you be if you hadn’t turned out to be the person you are right now?

Excerpts-

  • From the cover Prologue

    My calendar is full of dead people.

    When my phone alarm chimes, I fish it out from the pocket of my cargo pants. I've forgotten, with the time change, to turn off the reminder. I'm still groggy with sleep, but I open the date and read the names: Iris Vale. Eun Ae Kim. Alan Rosenfeldt. Marlon Jensen.

    I close my eyes, and do what I do every day at this moment: I remember them.

    Iris, who had died tiny and birdlike, had once driven a getaway car for a man she loved who'd robbed a bank. Eun Ae, who had been a doctor in Korea, but couldn't practice in the United States. Alan had proudly showed me the urn he bought for his cremated remains and then joked, I haven't tried it on yet. Marlon had changed out all the toilets in his house and put in new flooring and cleaned the gutters; he bought graduation gifts for his two children and hid them away. He took his twelve-year-old daughter to a hotel ballroom and waltzed with her while I filmed it on his phone, so that the day she got married there would be video of her dancing with her father.

    At one point, they were my clients. Now, they're my stories to keep.

    Everyone in my row is asleep. I slip my phone back into my pocket and carefully crawl over the woman to my right without disturbing her—air traveler's yoga—to make my way to the bathroom in the rear of the plane. There I blow my nose and look in the mirror. I'm at the age where that's a surprise, where I still think I'm going to see a younger woman rather than the one who blinks back at me. Lines fan from the corners of my eyes, like the creases of a familiar map. If I untangle the braid that lies over my left shoulder, these terrible fluorescent lights would pick up those first gray strands in my hair. I'm wearing baggy pants with an elastic waist, like every other sensible nearly-forty woman who knows she's going to be on a plane for a long-haul flight. I grab a handful of tissues and open the door, intent on heading back to my seat, but the little galley area is packed with flight attendants. They are knotted together like a frown.

    They stop talking when I appear. "Ma'am," one of them says, "could you please take your seat?"

    It strikes me that their job isn't really very different from mine. If you're on a plane, you're not where you started, and you're not where you're going. You're caught in between. A flight attendant is the guide who helps you navigate that passage smoothly. As a death doula, I do the same thing, but the journey is from life to death, and at the end, you don't disembark with two hundred other travelers. You go alone.

    I climb back over the sleeping woman in the aisle seat and buckle my seatbelt just as the overhead lights blaze and the cabin comes alive.

    "Ladies and gentlemen," a voice announces, "we have just been informed by the captain that we're going to have a planned emergency. Please listen to the flight attendants and follow their directions."

    I am frozen. Planned emergency. The oxymoron sticks in my mind.

    There is a quick rush of sound—shock rolls through the cabin—but no screams, no loud cries. Even the baby behind me, who shrieked for the first two hours of the flight, is silent. "We're crashing," the woman on the aisle whispers. "Oh my God, we're crashing."

    She must be wrong; there hasn't even been turbulence. Everything has been normal. But then the flight attendants station themselves in the aisles, performing a strange, staccato ballet of safety movements as instructions are read over the speakers. Fasten your seatbelts. When you hear the word brace, assume the brace...

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    July 13, 2020
    Picoult (A Spark of Life) explores age-old questions about a possible parallel universe in this shrewd tale. The life of narrator Dawn McDowell, a specialist in the ancient Egyptian coffin text the Book of Two Ways, has taken two paths, indicated by alternating chapter titles. In “Water/Boston,” Dawn is a death doula facing an impasse in her marriage to quantum mechanics professor Brian Edelstein, after he missed his daughter’s birthday to spend time with an adoring student. The “Land/Egypt” path begins with Dawn’s life before Brian, when she was on a PhD track as an Egyptologist, worked at a Yale-sponsored dig, and developed a connection with fellow student Wyatt Armstrong. In the present, Dawn returns to Egypt to see if she can pick up the life with Wyatt she left behind, and the trip is described in two ways that mirror one another with a few key differences. Along the way, Picoult unloads a great deal of info on quantum mechanics, parallel worlds, Egyptian history, religion and hieroglyphics, the machinations of archeological digs, and the process of dying. The dual-life construct can be confusing, and readers may find it not sufficiently explained, but Dawn’s story offers keen insight on the limits of love. Picoult’s fans will appreciate this multifaceted, high-concept work.

  • AudioFile Magazine Dawn is thriving as a mom and wife with a fulfilling career when a plane crash leaves her second-guessing everything. Patti Murin admirably narrates this complex novel, providing a strong yet pleasant voice for Dawn at this crossroads. Dawn's early adulthood as an Egyptian archaeologist took a sudden turn many years before when she returned home to her dying mother and stayed to become a wife and death doula. But her own near-death experience results in deep yearning for her former life in Egypt--and her true love, a British colleague. Murin portrays his smarmy superiority and eventual commitment to Dawn with a light accent. The novel's extensive details about quantum physics and Egyptology are interesting rather than cumbersome, thanks to Murin's conversational narration. N.M.C. � AudioFile 2020, Portland, Maine

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Jodi Picoult
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