The Book of Two Ways

The Book of Two Ways


Dawn is a death doula, and spends her life helping people make the final transition peacefully.

But when the plane she's on plummets, she finds herself thinking not of the perfect life she has, but the life she was forced to abandon fifteen years ago - when she left behind a career in Egyptology, and a man she loved.

Against the odds, she survives, and the airline offers her a ticket to wherever she needs to get to - but the answer to that question suddenly seems uncertain.

As the path of her life forks in two very different directions, Dawn must confront questions she's never truly asked: What does a well-lived life look like? What do we leave behind when we go? And do we make our choices, or do our choices make us?

Two possible futures. One impossible choice.

Our Review

The Book of Two Ways was everything I wanted it to be and more. It has been more than 24 hours since I finished reading it and I still can’t get it out of my head.

Followers of my reviews will notice that I tend to enjoy books by Jodi Picoult anyway, but this was another level. The characters were so skilfully created that I felt like I knew them personally and I have been left with a feeling of dissatisfaction that the book is finished. Having said that the ending is absolutely perfect, and my dissatisfaction is just a reflection of how good the book was.

Dawn makes her living as a death doula, anticipating the needs of the dying and giving them comfort in their final hours. She thinks she knows all there is about death. She is wrong.

When the plane Dawn is on plummets, she finds her thoughts are with a man she hasn’t seen for more than fifteen years rather than with her husband and daughter.  

“For someone who makes a living through death, I haven’t given a lot of thought to my own. I have heard that when you are about to die your life flashes before your eyes.

But I do not picture my husband, Brian…Or Meret, as a little girl, asking me to check for monsters under the bed…

Instead I see him.

As clearly as if it was yesterday. I imagine Wyatt in the middle of the Egyptian desert, the sun beating down on his hat, his neck wringed with dirt from the constant wind, his teeth a flash of lightning. A man who hasn’t been part of my life for fifteen years.”

Dawn is lucky enough to survive the plane crash and has to choose whether to go home to her loving family in Boston or to travel to her former lover in Egypt.

The Book of Two Ways explores both these outcomes and how much of a role choice plays in the outcome of our lives.

The book is split into two scenarios – in the first Dawn board a plane to Egypt and travels to the site of a dig lead by her former lover Wyatt. Once there she convinces him to give her a job and gets to see what life would have been like if she had pursued her career as an Egyptologist.

“One of the questions I ask my clients is What’s left unfinished? What is it that you haven’t done yet, that you need to do before you leave this life?...For me, it’s this.

As a child I can vividly remember loving learning about Ancient Egypt at school, so I relished the chance to learn more about the Ancient Egyptians during the course of this book. It is clear that Picoult thoroughly researched Egyptian views on the afterlife and has put a lot of effort into making sure every detail is right.

The second timeline sees Dawn arrive home to a troubled marriage with her Husband Brian and a troubled relationship with her daughter Meret. Try as she might she can’t seem to say the right thing to her and every move she makes pushes her further away.

In this timeline Dawn seeks refuge in her job and in the life, or death, of her latest client Win. This section of the book was fascinating for me also because I loved learning about all the different customs people have in relation to death.

Additionally, many of the things Dawn says and feels about looking after the dying are how I feel about looking after people at the end of their life. It was her compassion for the dying that helped me warm to her as a character.

“Death is scary and confusing and painful, and facing it alone shouldn’t be the norm.

I realised I could do something about that”

I felt that the author really understood the grieving process and also what it feels like to look after someone who is at the end of their life.

“After thirteen years of end-of-life work, I know that we do a shitty job of intellectually and emotionally preparing for death. How can you enjoy life if you spend every minute focusing on the end of it? I know that most people – like my mother was – are afraid to talk about death, as if it’s contagious. I know that you are the same person when you die that you were when you were alive – if you are feisty in life, you’ll be feisty at the end of life.”

There were also a lot of flashbacks in the book showing the development of Wyatt and Dawn’s relationship which I loved. In fact, I struggled to warm to Brian because I wanted Dawn to end up with Wyatt.

As for Dawn, I loved her character despite being clearly flawed and many of her actions being incredibly selfish. The book wouldn’t have worked if she wasn’t, and when the reasons for her actions are explained it is easier to warm to her.

The Book of Two Ways is utterly fantastic, I loved it so much that I may well just read it all over again.


Our Final Rating...

Our Rating

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