"Sometimes I wonder....Can a ghost find you, if she wants to?"
An intricate tale of love, haunting memories, and renewal, Second Glance begins in current-day Vermont, where an old man puts a piece of land up for sale and unintentionally raises protest from the local Abenaki Indian tribe, who insist it's a burial ground. When odd, supernatural events plague the town of Comtosook, a ghost hunter is hired by the developer to help convince the residents that there's nothing spiritual about the property.
Enter Ross Wakeman, a suicidal drifter who has put himself in mortal danger time and again. He's driven his car off a bridge into a lake. He's been mugged in New York City and struck by lightning in a calm country field. Yet despite his best efforts, life clings to him and pulls him ever deeper into the empty existence he cannot bear since his fiancée's death in a car crash eight years ago. Ross now lives only for the moment he might once again encounter the woman he loves. But in Comtosook, the only discovery Ross can lay claim to is that of Lia Beaumont, a skittish, mysterious woman who, like Ross, is on a search for something beyond the boundary separating life and death. Thus begins Jodi Picoult's enthralling and ultimately astonishing story of love, fate, and a crime of passion.
Hailed by critics as a "master" storyteller (Washington Post), Picoult once again "pushes herself, and consequently the reader, to think about the unthinkable" (Denver Post). Second Glance, her eeriest and most engrossing work yet, delves into a virtually unknown chapter of American history -- Vermont's eugenics project of the 1920s and 30s -- to provide a compelling study of the things that come back to haunt us -- literally and figuratively. Do we love across time, or in spite of it?
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1 . A modern ghost story, a chilling history, and finally love
Posted May 09, 2009 by Zhulyee , Colo SpgsPicoult weaves another poignant and engrossing tale of loss and redemption. What makes this story different from her others is the number of seemingly disconnected characters, each battling their own personal demons, that come together through the story of present and previous generations to a satisfying end. Ethical issues abound in her trademark style, but it's a surreal encounter with recent American history that chills the reader. Who knew Hitler's genocidal vision had a basis in American eugenics?
March 31, 2003
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Excerpt from Second Glance by Jodi Picoult
Ross Wakeman succeeded the first time he killed himself, but not the second or the third.
He fell asleep at the wheel and drove his car off a bridge into a lake -- that was the second time -- and was found on the shore by rescuers. When his half-sunken Honda was recovered, the doors were all locked, and the tempered glass windows were shattered like spider-webs, but still intact. No one could figure out how he'd gotten out of the car in the first place, much less survived a crash without even a scratch.
The third time, Ross was mugged in New York City. The thief took his wallet and beat him up, and then shot him in the back and left him for dead. The bullet -- fired close enough to have shattered his scapula and punctured a lung -- didn't. Instead it miraculously stopped at the bone, a small nugget of lead that Ross now used as a keychain.
The first time was years ago, when Ross had found himself in the middle of an electrical storm. The lightning, a beautiful blue charge, had staggered out of the sky and gone straight for his heart. The doctors told him that he had been legally dead for seven minutes. They reasoned that the current could not have struck Ross directly, because 50,000 amperes of current in his chest cavity would have boiled the moisture in his cells and quite literally made him explode. Instead, the lightning had hit nearby and created an induced current in his own body, one still strong enough to disturb his cardiac rhythm. The doctors said he was one hell of a lucky man.
They were wrong.
Now, as Ross walked up the pitched wet roof of the O'Donnells' Oswego home in the dark, he did not even bother with caution. The wind coming off Lake Ontario was cold even in August, and whipped his long hair into his eyes as he maneuvered around the gabled window. The rain bit at the back of his neck as he worked the clamps onto the flashing and positioned the waterproof video camera so that it was pointing into the attic.
His boots slipped, dislodging some of the old shingles. On the ground, beneath an umbrella, O'Donnell squinted up at him. "Be careful," the man called out. Ross also heard the words he did not say: We've got enough ghosts.
But nothing would happen to him. He would not trip; he wouldn't fall. It was why he volunteered for the riskiest tasks; why he put himself into danger again and again. It was why he'd tried bungee jumping and rock climbing and crack cocaine. He waved down to Mr. O'Donnell, indicating that he'd heard. But just as Ross knew that in eight hours, the sun would come up -- just as he knew that he'd have to go through the motions for another day -- he also knew he couldn't die, in spite of the fact that it was what he wanted, more than anything.
The baby woke Spencer Pike, and he struggled to a sitting position. In spite of the nightlights kept in every room at the Shady Pines Nursing Home -- nearly enough combined wattage, he imagined, to illuminate all of Burlington, Vermont -- Spencer couldn't see past the foot of his bed. He couldn't see anything these days, thanks to the cataracts; although sometimes he'd get up to take a leak, and in the mirror, as he passed by, he would catch a glimpse of someone watching him -- someone whose brow was not spotted and yellow; someone whose skin was not sighing off his bones. But then the young man Spencer had once been would disappear, leaving him to stare at the crumbs that were left of his life.
His ears, though, were sharp. Unlike the other sorry old morons in this place, Spencer had never needed a hearing aid. Hell, he heard things that he didn't even care to.
On cue, the baby cried again.
Spencer's hand scrabbled over the covers to the call button beside his bed. A moment later, the night nurse came in. "Mr. Pike," she said. "What's the matter?"
"The baby's crying."