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HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICEon September 6, 2011
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? Even surrounded by a supporting cast, Aunt Marie, the unflappable lead surgeon, dedicated medical staff and the friendship of the Cappadora family (The Deep End of the Ocean), Sicily Coyne will always be larger-than-life. That's Mitchard's fault, the precarious balance of plot post-transplant full of missteps, awkward moments and frankly unbelievable situations.

The juxtaposition of extremes often too much to overcome, the author seems irresistibly drawn to the predictably conventional, a saccharine happily-ever-after scenario that is such a poor fit with Sicily's circumstances. The promise of potential medical miracles is the true message of this novel, but Mitchard stumbles under her story's ambitions- too much to ask from readers or this plot. In the end, I am as split as Sicily's life pre- and post-surgery. The scientific details, while gruesome, are effectively presented, the psychological aspects of the novel on far rockier terrain, from medical technology to a confused twenty-something with age-appropriate dreams. Mitchard drops the ball, opting for a happy ending, no resolution at all. Luan Gaines/2011.
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on September 14, 2011
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.
There is no denying that Mitchard's stories are melodramatic, designed to pull at the heart strings they exploit unimaginable tragedy. Yet to be fair her characters are often so realistically portrayed that the less subtle aspects of her plots can be forgiven.
Sicily is immediately sympathetic, and much like her family and friends, we are predisposed to give her leeway we might not usually permit. Despite Sicily's incredible adjustment to her situation her life has not been normal and her emotional reactions reflect that. It excuses some of the poor decisions she makes post transplant but I must admit there were moments when I wasn't sure if I liked Sicily much. I don't doubt that it is a deliberate manipulation by Mitchard who is skilled at creating characters who are emotionally complex and provoke a mix of reactions.
Subtitled A Love Story there is nothing conventional about the romantic entanglements in Second Nature. Sicily's relations with Vincent is complicated and the conclusion has a slightly unsatisfying ambiguity.
I believe the subtitle likely refers more to the varieties of love that are encountered in the this novel, including self acceptance and the unconditional love of family.

Second Nature is interesting but I didn't find it nearly as absorbing as I hoped. There was just a touch too much drama, and I had expected a more uplifting conclusion.
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on January 17, 2013
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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on September 11, 2011
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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Sicily Coyne's life is full of statistical impossibilities. As the victim of a devastating fire as a preadolescent, she is left with no face...literally. Her father's death in that same fire is another overwhelming loss.

When Sicily's mother dies two years later, her aunt takes over as her guardian, and there is no one who is less likely to fill this role. But she does it with aplomb.

When this Chicago-born girl is grown, her life suddenly takes an unexpected turn after her engagement to a childhood friend turns sour in the worst kind of betrayal yet.

A ground-breaking face transplant becomes a possibility...though, again, something of a statistical impossibility.

From the moment the transplant takes place, and through the early healing stages, Sicily's life connects and interconnects with another Chicago family full of statistical impossibilities: the Cappadoras. Pat and Beth's son Ben was kidnapped at age three in The Deep End of the Ocean (Oprah's Book Club); and in the sequel, No Time to Wave Goodbye: A Novel (Random House Reader's Circle), the story continues, revealing much about these characters.

I loved how these characters from Mitchard's earlier books were woven together in a gorgeous tapestry of people beating out the odds in life.

There are many other risk-taking moments for Sicily when her path crosses with Vincent Cappadora's, and when an unplanned pregnancy places everything at risk for her.

What will happen next for this girl who has gone way out of her comfort zone in life? Will there be a love match, or will Sicily and Vincent travel on parallel paths? What unexpected career will finally bring Sicily full circle?

I loved Second Nature: A Love Story and felt so connected to these characters that all seemingly fought against impossible odds and came out on the other side. Therefore, five stars for this one!
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on December 13, 2011
This is the first book that I have read written by Jacquelyn Mitchard. I was in Barnes & Nobel and the cover art caught my attention. Then because I didn't want to lug a book back to Switzerland I downloaded the electronic version of the story. Not having read anything of her's before I did not realize that the Cappadora family who play a central role in this story have been key players in other storylines. I only discovered that after finishing this story. In hindsight I can say that not being familiar with the family did not have a negative impact on my understanding of the story or its flow.

Regardless of the title, I don't think that I would classify this as a love story in the traditional sense; although, it could be construed that the story is a journey of self-discovery and love for the main character Sicily Coyne.

In an overly simplistic statement: Sicily is a burn victim whose face is horribly disfigured as a child who later in life has a face transplant. Some readers might be turned off by either of those two ideas but I have to say that the book handles the concepts beautifully. Mitchard gives the reader a good understanding of what is going on with Sicily without crossing over the line into horror movie graphic. For me personally the best part of the story is seeing how Sicily comes into her own as a woman and comes to terms with her own motivations.

The only thing I was not thrilled with was the ending, which seems to be left up to the reader to determine what happens next. Regardless I would recommend this as a good read.
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on November 17, 2013
Another - even worse- Mitchard disappointment. This brief review will just echo what others have said; I thought Deep End' was good , so was surprised to be hugely disappointed in the sequel, and now found little, if anything, to like in this third book..... determined to not assume I will like, or buy, any further books by this author. Starting to think "Deep End" was a fluke.
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on September 11, 2011
I have always felt that Jacquelyn Mitchard is one of the most realistic authors of contemporary fiction writing today. I enjoy reading books that present believable characters facing circumstances beyond their control. The dialogue between her characters is so true-to-life you will feel you're eavesdropping on private conversations. Her novels are consistently intriguing, thought provoking works of art, painted with words. Her most recent novel "Second Nature" does not disappoint in any way.

The story revolves around Sicily Coyne, a young woman, who, at the very start of her teenage years, survives a horrific fire, while watching helplessly as her beloved firefighter father dies. He is consumed by the conflagration, right before her eyes. Sicily is badly disfigured by the fire, and she begins her adolescence without a face. Yet because of a loving aunt, she lives her life. She has a job and she has a boyfriend, but she doesn't have many things we all take for granted every day, like lips or a nose. And still she perseveres.

When you do read it, (and you really should read it as soon as possible - it IS that good! - and everyone is going to be talking about it, so you may as well make sure you're not left out of all the conversation) don't think you'll be reading a chapter a day; sorry, that will not be possible. This story is going to grab you and pull you into it's pages from the very first chapter. You will be absolutely hooked by the first few paragraphs! You will feel the intense heat of the flames, you will be unable to breathe normally, you will find yourself at Sicily's side for every excruciating moment. How is this possible? Ms. Mitchard writes with such raw emotion and haunting description, such well researched accuracy, such unrelenting visual imagery, you will not be able to forget what you've read. What might be extraneous details in another book, become terribly frightening and strangely graceful at the same time. I can guarantee you will be affected by reading how the fire begins, how Sicily's father tries to save a little boy, and what she sees when she looks up at the altar.

I highly recommend this novel. Book clubs will have to schedule 2 or 3 meetings to cover all there is to discuss. Ms. Mitchard has interwoven some of her favorite and flawed Cappadoras into the mix, and they add to the richness and depth of the whole. This is a beautifully told tale, so full of perfect moments throughout, you will go back and read certain paragraphs again and again. Her writing skills are impeccable, her passion for her art is inarguable, and her talent is beyond reproach. Get this book and start reading it immediately. EVERYONE IS GOING TO BE TALKING ABOUT IT!!!!!
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on February 17, 2012
I saw this book at my library and ordered the unabridged audio book. Before I did, I checked the ratings and read some reviews at Amazon as I do with most of the books I read. Despite the very average ratings, I decided to give it a chance. I was frankly curious about a burn victim getting a chance at a new life and happiness after a face transplant. I was quite disappointed by the result however. At the beginning of disc 7, I just couldn't take it anymore, I fast forwarded to the last disc (the book contains 11 discs) and listened to the end of the story. My personal conclusion after reading this book is that anyone can write a book, but not everyone can tell a story. Of course, this is my fault as I should have paid more attention to the "A Love Story" tag line above the title, unfortunately this didn't register and I read a love story when I was expecting a drama/mystery. Clearly, my personal opinion should not be a factor when it comes to the quality of a book that other reviewers have so thoroughly enjoyed.
Whereas I could empathize with Sicily before the operation, I didn't really relate to her depression after the transplant nor could I understand it. I didn't bargain for hurt feelings, love gone awry, maternity concerns, nor did I care (though I'm not sure why) to meet characters from another of Mitchard's novels (this felt too much like promotion). Some portions of the book were interesting enough, but there wasn't enough appeal to support my interest and half way through, when I finally got the gist of where the story was headed, I started losing interest fast. There was a lot of blah blah blah about everybody's feelings that I didn't find particularly interesting. One reviewer stated that if you like Jodi Picoult's novels, you would like "Second Nature". I disagree. I have read 7 of Jodi Picoult's novels and have liked most of them with one exception. Picoult's writing is engrossing, delightful, especially insightful, and she finds ways to convey inner feelings in a very refreshing manner. Also, Picoult definitively knows how to tell a story. Sicily's feelings as well as those of the other characters in the book felt sadly rehashed. There was little to inspire or interest me. I wish I had taken the ratings to heart and skipped this novel.
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on January 6, 2012
Sicily Coyn lost her father and was horribly burned in a fire when she was 13 years old. Twelve years later, Sicily has grown into an accomplished adult with a close circle of family and friends who see beyond her scars. When a doctor offers her a chance to have a face transplant, she refuses, feeling like she doesn't need it to live a good life. When she learns some hard truths about her fiance and calls off the wedding, she changes her mind about the surgery and places herself, and her family, on an unforgettable path. (If you read The Deep End of the Ocean, you will become reacquainted with the Cappadora family.)

This book reaches out and grabs you on so many levels that it's hard to put it all in writing. First of all, the description of Sicily's life before she decides to have the transplant is what really makes the book. I think many readers wished that she would just get it done already, but in order to appreciate the after, you must know the before. On the surface Sicily is confident, but beneath that facade is a woman who believes deep down that she must settle for what she can get. Mitchard obviously did research on burn victims and what they go through after they try to rejoin the life they had before their circumstances changed. The deep emotion and bitter-sweetness that is infused into the decision making process makes you wonder, along with Sicily, whether this is the right decision for her.

Her life after the transplant is all about discovery; not only a discovery of a new life with a new face, but of who she really is and how much her injury has crippled her emotionally. It's in the second half of the book that we find her more isolated than she ever was with a disfigured face. A dramatic turn of events forces her into isolation and gives her a chance to appreciate, worry, and examine who she really is and what she really wants. This is not a conventional love story and it's not a romance novel. There are no neat little packages to be wrapped up at the end. This is a story that is engaging and emotional, with decisions that stay with you long after the story has ended.
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