So Second Glance by Jodi Picoult is kind of like the way more serious, sad and complicated version of Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie. It’s also very similar to The Pact in that the way you think everything happened turns out to be the complete opposite of what actually happened, and it takes the entire length of the book to realize it.
Set in small-town Vermont, Second Glance starts off as a typical ghost story. The town’s Native American population is up in arms about a particular piece of property being developed into a mini-mall, and some very strange things start happening when construction workers attempt to tear down the house on the property and otherwise tamper with the land. There is some seriously great imagery (I feel like a teacher saying that) when Picoult describes these supernatural activities — rose petals falling from the sky, alarm clocks never going off, the ground freezing in August, etc. — but this first part is otherwise a little hard to get into. In addition to the Native Americans we are introduced Shelby, single mother of Ethan who is literally allergic to the sun, and her brother Ross, an extraordinarily depressed widower who has spent the past decade trying to connect with the “other realm” so that he may see his wife again. Ross is recruited by the mini-mall developers to investigate the true nature of the weird happenings, and while doing so he happens to meet and fall in love with the ghost responsible for all this mystery.
The second part of the story is told from the perspective of our ghost, Lia Beaumont/Cissy Pike. Lia/Cissy is the extremely unhappy 19-year-old wife of a wealthy professor who believes in and practices eugenics, or purifying the human race via sterilization (not unlike Nazi beliefs). She is about seven months pregnant and convinced she is going to die during childbirth, so she repeatedly tries to take her own life before that can happen. Seeing the world through her eyes is quite disconcerting; you just can’t believe someone can be that unbelievably, irreversibly miserable and against life in general (something she has in common with Ross). A Native American, then referred to as a Gypsy, man name Gray Wolf starts to turn Lia’s life around, though, and it comes to light that she actually represents everything her husband is against.
The third part of the story, back to modern-day Comtosook, is all about solving the crime: How did Lia Beaumont really die, and did her baby die with her? I can’t give ANY of this part of the story away, but I can say that I disagree with the back-cover description of the book, which talks about “true love transcending time” or something of that nature. I don’t think that’s what this book is about at all; I think it’s about fate, and tiny moments affecting the big ones, and being in the right place at the right time and understanding your purpose for being on Earth. Despite a few too-coincidental aspects of the plot, I was very satisfied with how it all came to an end.
I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone who doesn’t appreciate a little bit of sci-fi/fantasy/spookiness, but I definitely recommend it to murder mystery fans. Next up: Digging into the dollar book bin with Monkey Business by Sarah Mlynowski!