Second Glance: A Novel
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102 of 104 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 13, 2003
This is not your typical mystery. With a first sentence like this:
"Ross Wakeman succeeded the first time he killed himself, but not the second or the third."
One would think this is a depressing book. It's not. It's a very different type of reading ~~ with different characters scattered who knows where but it all comes together nicely. They all have one thing in common and that is the real mystery of the novel. Ross, Shelby, Ethan, Eli, Az, Meredith, Lucy, Ruby, Spencer and Lia all have a story to tell and how it is all connected, Picoult does her painstakingly thorough work as usual to tie them all together. And I am not disappointed with the results!
Be patient is what I would say about this book. There are a lot of characters in this book, and sometimes it seems like Picoult gives the reader too much information about them or sometimes it seems repetitive but it's not. She really gives a good insight of each character and you find yourself turning the page hoping for more indepths to the characters. You find yourself sitting up late at night guessing the truth and finding out that it wasn't so predictable after all.
The theme of this novel is about love and ghosts. It is also about people solving a 70-year old murder mystery. It is about people losing the ones they love and finding love again in mysterious ways. Lies unravel in the face of the truth. Dreams get shattered and broken in this novel then painstakingly brought back together again. It is a good insight on love and relationships and the paranormal has a big part in how this book flows together. This is one of the best Picoult novels I have yet read (I've read them all). I am looking forward to more of her books since she has not failed to meet my expectations!
Grab this one without delay ~~ it's perfect fall reading. Just to be sure to snuggle under your blanket and be prepared to be swept away by Picoult's lyrical writings.
10-13-03
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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2003
Second Glance is an amazing novel, which careens across genre boundaries so energetically that it's difficult to describe (or design a cover for, judging by the results). It is undeniably a ghost story, and a murder mystery with strong police procedural elements, as well as a romance or two, plus a fascinating slab of historical novel about one of the lesser-known real horrors of 1930s America. Even if you don't normally enjoy any of these types of book, you may want to read this just for Picoult's skill at creating fascinating characters.
Beginning with a great first line - "Ross Wakeman succeeded the first time he killed himself, but not the second or third." - Second Glance introduces so many characters so quickly that you may find yourself having to take notes before the first chapter is done. Ross is an investigator of alleged hauntings, who has given up suicide because he suspects he's invincible. An ancient professor hears a baby crying in an old people's home. A cop rousts teenagers from a cemetery as it snows rose petals. Ghostly flies spell out a Native American word for 'baby'. A mother with a nine-year-old son fatally allergic to ultraviolet light has exchanged day for night, and has nightmares while she's awake.
Slowly, these threads and others begin to weave themselves into an intricate tapestry. As a supernatural thriller, Second Glance is on a par with The Sixth Sense or The Others, or one of Stephen King's novels without the more visceral elements. Running parallel to the ghost story is an equally well constructed scientific detective story, complete with coroner's reports and detailed DNA charts. The real strength, though, is the troubled but likeable characters - Ross, Ethan, Shelby, Eli, Cecilia, and others.
Second Glance is not without flaws. The plot occasionally hinges on coincidences which verge on the miraculous. Some of the clues might as well have neon signs attached, so some of the 'surprises' aren't particularly surprising. Picoult's children seem too mature for their age - much less convincing than those in Stephen King's It or The Body. There are inconsistencies in the timeline, such as a character in 2001 having newspaper clippings from 2002. And the romance subplots and writing become a little mawkish in places, especially near the end. On the whole, though, this is a thoroughly intriguing novel which should appeal to a wide variety of reading tastes.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2004
"Do we love across time? Or in spite of it?"
That's the theme that Jodi Picoult examines in SECOND GLANCE. By the end of the novel, I'm still not sure of the answer to that question. And as far as I can tell, the characters couldn't figure it out either. Perhaps it's meant to be an eternal mystery, but one thing's for sure: a number of people get hopelessly entangled in each other's lives while trying to unravel the mysteries of the past in this novel.
Ross Wakeman has tried to kill himself so many times, he's lost track. The only thing he lives for is catching a glimpse of his deceased fiancée, but he's never so much as even seen a ghost. He works as a paranormal investigator, and his travels bring him to Comtosook, Vermont, to visit with his sister, Shelby. While there, he finds more clues pointing to the existence of ghosts than ever before, and he meets beautiful and intriguing Lea Beaumont, a woman who stirs feelings in his heart he never thought he'd feel again. But what mysteries is she hiding? And will Ross ever be the same after finding out?
There are a whole slew of characters making their way through this novel, so take that as a warning. You might need to scribble down names and relationships even before you finish the first chapter. Though the plotline seems entangled, it all wraps up nicely (if not quite satisfyingly) in the end. Jodi Picoult has written a novel that's an interesting blend of ghost story and history lesson, though it may bore some readers with its foray into the eugenics movement of the 1930s. The characterization is also weak at times, as evidenced by Ross' complete inability to differentiate between love and obsession with the idea of love.
Pick this one up if you're looking for an interesting read, but don't expect a page turner.
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2003
I've read and enjoyed all of Jodi Picoult's books and I must say, this is one of her finest.
Historical fiction based on fact, moving from present to past and back again; quirky, likeable characters; elements of magical realism (reminiscent of Alice Hoffman); and the serious and controversial topics of genocide and genetic selection, are all seamlessly woven into this story about love and second chances.
Unlike several of her previous novels, Second Glance does not include courtroom drama, but Picoult fans will enjoy her usual plot twists and signature "wow" ending. And as expected, readers will find themselves thinking and questioning their views long after they've turned the last page.
Highly recommended for book discussion groups.
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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
SECOND GLANCE starts off rather clunky with Picoult introducing at least a dozen characters, all with their own viewpoints. It's hard to know who's really important.
The lead character, Ross Wakeman, is a kind of ghost buster with suicidal tendencies. He wants to join his fiancée, Aimie, who had been killed in a car accident that he feels guilty about. He's already tried to kill himself a couple of times.
Newton Redhook, a development company, hires Wakeman to prove there are no ghosts on property it has acquired from an old man named Spencer Pike. Stephen Kingisms abound. Rose petals fall from the sky, the ground freezes in the middle of August, the town drunk wakes one morning with his straight hair turned curly,
and while Ross is videotaping the place, he meets a woman who seems as mortal as he is, until she walks through a gravestone. But it's too late; he's already fallen in love with another dead woman.
Gradually, very gradually, Picoult begins to connect the people she introduced at the beginning of the book and that's when it gets good. You see, Spencer Pike, owner of the haunted land, had a wife who was apparenty murdered along with her baby daughter and she's the woman Ross has fallen for.
Picoult very adroitly uses historical background to make SECOND GLANCE more than just a ghost story. You see, back when he was a young man, Spencer Pike was one of the prime movers of the Eugenics movement, a "voluntary" sterilization project which the Nazis used as a model for their own program. Pike and his fellow scientists believed criminal behavior was inherited and could be eliminated by preventing these people from passing on their genes.
Throw in a 102-year-old Abenaki Indian with multiple identifies and you've got an enthralling summer read.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2005
Jodi Picoult brings the supernatural world of ghosts and other phenomena to life in an unusual tale of love that transcends time and death. Second Glance is a story about the difference between life and really living. It is also about love.

As the tale evolves the possibilities of loving and living beyond all time are gently unwrapped and placed before the reader.

There is the mother with a son who has a rare disease, and as she focuses all her energy on him, the child sees the importance of living a rich full life.

A young man who is a ghosthunter enters. He is haunted by past events in his life that grow more and more confusing to him as he delves into the lives of those surrounding him, both dead and alive.

A young girl who lives far away from all of this, is thought to be going mad when she claims to be haunted by visions that are unexplained....

The stage for this story is a building site that once disturbed, seems to trigger a series of unnatural occurrences in a small Vermont town. When these phenomena cause the construction crew to walk off the job until an explanation can be found the ghosthunter is called in. The existence of an Indian burial ground elicits an investigation into that possibility. Between the ghosthunting and the legal and historical investigation, the facts of the past are uncovered, and the events that link everyone together are laid bare,and the truth is revealed.

Each person in Second Glance questions the value of time as it relates to living and loving and Jodi Picoult brings them to a wondrous revelation that will change the very fabric of their lives.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 31, 2004
Jodi Picoult is a good writer. Her "Second Glance" is a smattering of the history of eugenics in Vermont and she uses it as a launching pad for a series of questions about genetics counseling to prevent some of the diseases that have plagued families. In a capsulized form, any miraculous discovery...be it biological (DNA)...or otherwise...has its opportunities for good or for bad. Picoult posits many good arguments, as in the discussion between Ross and Meredith, the genetics counselor.

The story starts very slowly. Ross' personal difficulties, the loss of his great love, Aimee, his suicide attempts, his pre-occupation with ghosts make for slow reading. The story really begins to move once the element of eugenics as practiced in Vermont in the 1920s and 1930s, is introduced into the plot. The quotations from the proponents of sterilization are shocking when viewed from a modern day perspective. Further, to be informed that Hitler ultimately used some of the movements' faulty premises as a basis for his own destruction of others who were labeled inferiors, makes it all the more shocking. It was more comfortable to point to Hitler for such monstrous ideas!

Some of the dialogue is melodramatic and schmaltzy. Tobacco smoke curls in Ross' throat like a question mark. Ross wonders if his deceased beloved, Aimee, may have come back as Lia, the novel's central character. Murdered over 70 years ago, Ross is infatuated with Cecilia Pike, whose own husband was infatuated with her. Both Ross and Cissy Pike's husband switch their allegiances very quickly. Ross switches his allegiance from Aimee to Lia and Cissy's husband's estimation of his wife crashes when he mistakenly feels she is having an affair with an Indian and has given birth to his child of mixed race. How could this happen with the daughter of a fellow believer in eugenics? She, the daughter of such high quality?

The most interesting part of this novel is what actually occurred 70 years ago with the ill fated, Cissy Pike. What really happened to Cissy? Who murdered her? Did her baby really die? Who was supposed to have killed the baby? (This where modern-day DNA testing helps to solve mysteries.)

Twists and turns, with eugenics as the foundation. Gypsies and the feebleminded were undermining society. According to historical quotes, it was important that basic, solid Vermont stock be restored to its origins. The inferiors couldn't be allowed to procreate. And, like Hitler, anyone could be labeled inferior to suit the hypothesis. Native Americans, in this case the Abenaki, were considered Gypsies...shiftless...thieves...lazy. There were actual charts to substantiate the fact that the inferior begot societies ills. So why not restore order?

By skipping about from present day to the 1920s and 1930s, the author keeps us on our toes and waiting for more of the ultimate answers. However, what could have been a tightly woven story becomes schmaltzy because of some of the dialogue. It is of some interest, nonetheless.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2005
As someone who finds the supernatural absolutely fascinating, I have always found Picoult's novels intriguing. However, unlike some of her other works, this novel is a slow starter. No less than 20 characters are introduced in the first few chapters of the book and it is sometimes tedious to remember who is who. That being said, the characters finally begin to mesh and flow...the dross drains away and the pure gold of Picoult's writing talent emerges.

As a hopeful romantic, I am drawn to the main character, Ross Wakeman, who has experienced love so profound it permeates to the bone. Once love on that level is experienced, and then lost, life's orchestral crescendo fades into a single note of woeful desperation and despondency. A suicide attempt seems the only answer...not once, not twice, but thrice. The enthralling encounter that enables Ross to knit together the broken pieces of his life is central to the plot of the book, and every bit as exciting as the ghosts who also haunt the pages. Ultimately, Ross learns the enigmatic truth that life isn't defined by the moment one dies, but by all the moments one truly lives.

"True love is like ghosts, which everybody talks about and few have ever seen."
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2003
People Magazine Book Review
April 3, 2003
Second Glance
by Jodi Picoult
Reviewed by Amy Waldman

In the eight years since he saw his fiancée die in a car accident, Ross Wakeman has tried repeatedly to join her. But after a failed suicide attempt and several accidents that should have been fatal, Ross begins to take an interest in hunting ghosts instead of trying to become one. In rural Comtosook, Vt., he spends time with his sister and nephew and starts investigating a piece of land that may or may not have been an Indian burial ground. Rose petals rain down and a house in the process of being demolished rebuilds itself. Meanwhile, Ross meets Lia, a mysterious young woman who also tracks spirits.
Picoult ingeniously ties the ghost story to a true one about eugenics. In the 1920s and '30s, Vermont and other states sanctioned involuntary sterilization for supposedly "inferior" people such as the mentally and physically disabled, convicted criminals and New England's Abenaki Indians. The history lesson makes for chilling, even shocking, reading, and Picoult (Plain Truth) comes up with many unforgettable characters. This is a fast-paced, densely layered exploration of love, the pull of family and the power of both to transcend time.
BOTTOM LINE: Great ghost story
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2003
I have throroughly enjoyed every Jodi Picoult novel, and eagerly await each new release. Unfortunately, I am so extremely disappointed in the latest, Second Glance. There was something so definitely missing - I perservered to the end, thinking that surely something that had been missing throughout would occur to make it all tie in together, but it just didn't happen. I have been interested to read other excellent reviews of this book, but I am slightly relieved to find my friends who also have Ms Picoult as one of their favorite authors, are also very disappointed. The wonderful writing style is strangely still there, but the story line just couldn't hold me - as I mentioned earlier, I spent most of the book waiting for something to happen. An extremely far fetched story that is possibly best left to authors you would normally expect to write a 'far fetched' story.
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