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Second Nature: A Love Story Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 6, 2011

3.2 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Author One on One: Jacquelyn Mitchard and Lisa Genova
Interview conducted by Lisa Genova.

Lisa Genova is the New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice and Left Neglected. She graduated valedictorian from Bates College with a degree in biopsychology and earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard University. She lives on Cape Cod with her husband and three children.

LG: I love reading about characters who are forced to face huge, unusual, life-and-death obstacles. I think I love this because it’s a chance to see the resilience and adaptability of the human spirit, to witness powerful and meaningful change. You gave your main character, Sicily Coyne, one doozy of an obstacle. How did you come to imagine this woman who loses her face in a horrific fire?

JM: When I was little, there was a fire on the west side of Chicago at a school called Our Lady of Angels. Everyone had a neighbor, a cousin, a sibling, a good friend who knew, and knew well, one of the 92 children and three teaching sisters who died there. People kept copies of the Life magazine cover photo of firefighter Richard Scheidt, carrying out the unmarked body of ten-year-old John Jakowski from the building. The picture is excruciating. Scheidt's face is the personification of agony and mercy, almost like the mother of Christ. The child looks as though he has peacefully fallen asleep. That was the central image with which the book started, the firefighter giving his life so that a child might not die alone—in part, perhaps, because his own child survived, although terribly disfigured. The face transplant was a pretty natural idea because I was pre-med in college (unlike you, Lisa, I was undone by mathematics). I'm bewitched by science. Once I learned that this procedure could become simpler with practice (because everyone has a trigeminal nerve and an orbital floor in more or less the same place) I asked myself, what will be the next complication? And then the idea bloomed. What might naturally happen if someone's beauty is restored, after a dozen years, in the bloom of her young womanhood? And that was the ethical mystery, the hinge of the story.

LG: Sicily, Marie, Beth, and Eliza are all strong, smart, stubborn Italian women. Where did the inspiration for these dynamic women come from?

JM: I grew up in an Italian neighborhood. All my boyfriends were handsome hoodlums, much prettier than I was. My godmother and godfather were first generation Italians, and so were my best friend's parents, and much of the way I learned to make sense of the world (and to make great gravy) were as a result of days spent in my godmother's kitchen. My own mother was star-crossed in many ways, but was a strong, smart, stubborn woman, much like Marie, Sicily's aunt. In fact, physically and in her speech, my mother could be Marie, if my mother had not died very young. I didn't realize this until you asked the question.

LG: Readers who fell in love with the Cappadora family in The Deep End of the Ocean and No Time to Wave Goodbye will be thrilled to see them again in SECOND NATURE. Had you always imagined that Vincent’s journey would lead him to someone like Sicily?

JM: Vincent Cappadora is just me, in so many difficult and also good ways—someone who wants badly to do the right thing and manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory half the time, and the other half of the time breaks the tape at the last moment. He may get what he wants, or even what he needs, but not without going through a significant patch of hell first. How Vincent turns out depends on the thing that is most difficult for most people, and that's the willingness to crack open and be hurt.


“Timely…provocative….[Mitchard’s] distinctive voice is strong throughout and includes ironic and even funny observations about the human condition in the face of tragedy….[Her] latest will not disappoint.”
--Washington Post Book World
“A compelling, Jodi Picoult-like story.”
--USA Today

“Mitchard’s latest ought to come with a warning: make no immediate plans, because this book will take over your life….It is impossible not to root for [Sicily Coyne]…[as] she is both delightfully and excruciatingly fast-tracked through life experiences guaranteed to have readers alternately loving and hating but never forgetting this remarkable heroine....A high-profile novel destined to galvanize fans and new readers alike.
--Booklist, starred review
“A riveting tale….[Readers] will embrace Sicily, a strong and extremely empathic heroine.”
--Publishers Weekly

“There’s a newsy urgency to this story.”
--Chicago Tribune

“Jacquelyn Mitchard is back with a fascinating story that only she can tell. The characters are the sort that stay with you long after the last page is turned.”—Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help
Second Nature is a love story like no other. Sicily Coyne survives an unimaginable tragedy, skillfully imagined by Jacquelyn Mitchard, and must then face seemingly insurmountable obstacles and struggle against impossible odds in her quest to find what we all want—true connection, fulfillment, and lasting love.”—Lisa Genova, author of Still Alice
“Mitchard writes with passion and artistry, weaving a vivd story that both moves and astonishes. From the very first paragraph, you know you are in the hands of a gifted writer.”—Tess Gerritsen, author of Ice Cold
“Mitchard is one of my favorite writers for a reason. This is her best book yet.”—Karin Slaughter, author of Fallen


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (September 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400067758
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400067756
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,377,827 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jacquelyn Mitchard was born in Chicago. Her first novel, The Deep End of the Ocean, was published in 1996, becoming the first selection of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club and a number one New York Times bestseller. Eight other novels, four children's books and six young adult novels followed, including The Midnight Twins, Still Summer, All We Know of Heaven, and The Breakdown Lane. A former daily newspaper reporter, Mitchard now is a contributing editor for Parade Magazine, and frequently writes for such publications as More magazine and Real Simple. Her essays and short stories have been widely anthologized. An adjunct professor in the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program at Fairfield University, she lives in Wisconsin with her husband and their nine children

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Mitchard has written such an unusual story that I am torn between the struggle of her young heroine, Sicily Coyne, and confusion with a storyline that bridges both the bizarre and medically ground-breaking to the banality of a mismatched romance. In fact, everything about Second Nature is extraordinary, a problem for Mitchard, who must move her very human characters from one stage of the plot to another with some degree of plausibility. Daughter of a fire captain in a close-knit Chicago community, thirteen-year-old Sicily is horribly scarred in a holiday blaze that takes the life of her beloved father, demands countless reconstructive surgeries and adjustment to a world made small by necessity. Now in her 20s, Sicily has a career as a medical illustrator and depends on the unwavering emotional support of her Aunt Marie. Set in the not-too-distant future, medical technology makes a facial transplant a real possibility, a decision fraught with consequences, including lifelong medications to prevent tissue rejection. The upside, however, is significant. What will she do? What do you think?

Preparing for her wedding to a childhood friend, the sheltered Sicily is pushed from her comfort zone as a previously impossible future opens up. A heartbreaking confrontation with her fiancé, the transplant surgery and an impulsive romantic entanglement deliver Sicily to an unexpected, morally-weighted choice with life and death consequences. From breathing the rarified air of the truly unique, Sicily plunges into an otherworldly existence, medical and emotional post-transplant obstacles, the chasm between Sicily's intelligence and twenty-something emotions and the viability of a "normal" life. The author's biggest dilemma: How do you render an extraordinary character right-sized?
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Format: Hardcover
I adored Mitchard's The Deep End of the Ocean, the first Oprah book club book I ever purchased, it had a huge impact on me largely because I was pregnant with my first child at the time. I didn't realise No Time to Wave Goodbye was a sequel of sorts but when the opportunity to review Second Nature arose, a story that also involves the Cappadora family, arose I jumped at it.

Second Nature has an interesting premise, Sicily Coyne is established as a sympathetic, brave young woman who has thrived despite horrific injuries from the fire that killed her father, and then the tragic loss of her mother soon after. Raised by her glamorous yet doting aunt, Sicily has a comfortable career and is just weeks away from marrying her handsome firefighter boyfriend when the truth of the blaze that destroyed her family, and her face, surfaces. With her illusions shattered, Sicily decides to accept the offer of a face transplant - a technique much improved over the past decade, that promises to give her a more normal appearance. It's a surgery that is not without it's risks however and for Sicily the consequences are more far reaching than she could ever imagine.
I have to admit it took me a bit longer than I liked to become really interested her story though. I think my initial reluctance stemmed from the use of the first person point of view, a narrative I often struggle with because it usually leads to paragraphs of information, thinly disguised as a train of thought, that tend to run together. I was much more comfortable once the point of view changed to the third person only for it to switch again but with 'introductions' out of the way the story flowed much more easily for me.
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Format: Hardcover
I have loved all of Jacqueline Mitchard's other novels so expected to feel the same about this one. However I could not even finish the book. I disliked the self-centeredness and self-pityingness (is that a word?) of the main character, Sicily, so much that I abandoned the book, and I almost never do that. Her vacillation about her decision went on far, far too long for my taste. And to me the plot seesawed between doom and gloom, and pat and predictable. It was nice to see the Cappadoras from the other books - they were my favorite part - but the relationship between Vincent and Sicily seemed too much like a "romance novel" complete with unexplained stumbling blocks, and to me it seemed not at all heartfelt, just tortured. Life is short and I've got other books on my list to read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Once again I am delighted with Jackie Mitchard's newest book - Second Nature: A Love Story. I preordered and received it the day after it's release - thank you Amazon. I think I have read every book Ms Mitchard has written, save one or two children's books.
I could hardly wait until it was bedtime and I could take this book to my bedroom and close out the world around me and just read, read about a character that I had come to know through the youtube clips that I had used as a pre-introduction to Sicily.
I loved Sicily, though there were times when I was frustrated with her decisions.
I felt that introducing the Cappadora family (familiar "faces")was genius. These were people I had loved in Deep End of the Ocean and No Time to Wave Goodbye.
This is a book you need to read . . . . this is a family you need to come to know.
You did it again, Jackie.
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