Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult
Ready or not, novels written in 2020 or early 2021 are now being published, and a number of them are set during the pandemic. Accomplished storyteller Jodi Picoult was in Mexico for a wedding then traveled to Aspen, Colorado in March, 2020. She has been back home in New Hampshire ever since. A story about a Japanese tourist stranded near Machu Picchu in March, 2020 who finally got to tour the ruins that October caught her attention. Never having visited Peru, she didn’t want to set her next novel there. Happily for the reader, Picoult had visited the Galapagos Islands (600 miles west of Ecuador) with her family.
Diana, a New Yorker, works for Sotheby’s, and is about to sell a remarkable painting owned by a famous widow (a fictional version of Yoko Ono). She travels on a long planned trip to the Galapagos Islands without her medical resident boyfriend, Finn, at his urging. Diana ends up stranded on Isabela Island, without her luggage as the shutdown begins. Befriended by an unusual family, she explores the island and trades sketches for clothing, wondering why emails from Finn about the pandemic seem like they’re in two different worlds. Diana’s mother, a photographer, is at high risk from Covid-19, but the two of them have never been close.
I forgot that Picoult likes to throw in an occasional plot twist, and this one takes the story in a very different direction than I expected. This pandemic-inspired novel is a compelling, memorable read. If you’d rather read a contemporary novel set in the Galapagos Islands without the pandemic, try Shipped by Angie Hockman, a romantic comedy.