This was vintage Picoult with a bit of a twist, although not in the tale, but in the structure. Picoult always takes on a big controversial issue and extensively examines it, but never taking sides. Her characters are clearly on opposing sides, but sometimes they gain empathy for each other and find in their own stance something that might be questionable, thus maturing in their own understanding. Seeing something from someone else’s point of view is something that sadly seems to have gone missing in our world today.
In this case the issue is abortion and the novel begins with a shooting/hostage-taking at an abortion clinic. The author describes the event and then backs up an hour in time every chapter after that, leaving the epilogue to explain a few things, not even all, (which is kind of a cheap trick in this case because the novel is going back in time the reader has no choice but to hang in there, or skip to the end). It’s a different sort of structure for Picoult, perhaps she was trying to break out of a formulaic box. At any rate, in this case, I found the reverse timeline made the book drag on because all of the action had taken place at the beginning and the rest was backstory. Interesting, but not very compelling, and I felt that it resulted in too much dwelling on and rehashing of the tragic attack which made the book unnecessarily traumatic. Picoult is known also for a breathtaking twist, but again, in this one the only twist was small and predictable. However, the ‘Author’s Note’ at the end of the book was excellent, where in essay form, she discusses abortion in the US and the wider world. Clearly her research was thorough as usual, but it didn’t translate into an amazing story for me this time.