Diana O’Toole is perfectly on track. She will be married by 30, done having kids by 35, and move out to the New York City suburbs, all while climbing the professional ladder in the cutthroat art auction world. She’s an associate specialist at Sotheby’s now, but her boss has hinted at a promotion if she can close a deal with a high-profile client. She’s not engaged just yet, but she knows her boyfriend, Finn, a surgical resident, is about to propose on their romantic getaway to the Galápagos – days before her 30th birthday. Right on time.
But then a virus that felt worlds away has appeared in the city, and on the eve of their departure, Finn breaks the news: It’s all hands on deck at the hospital. He has to stay behind. You should still go, he assures her, since it would be a shame for all of their nonrefundable trip to go to waste. And so, reluctantly, she goes.
Almost immediately, Diana’s dream vacation goes awry. Her luggage is lost, the Wi-Fi is nearly nonexistent, and the hotel they’d booked is shut down due to the pandemic. In fact, the whole island is now under quarantine, and she is stranded until the borders reopen. Completely isolated, she must venture beyond her comfort zone. Slowly, she carves out a connection with a local family when a teenager with a secret opens up to Diana, despite her father’s suspicion of outsiders.
In the Galápagos Islands, where Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection was formed, Diana finds herself examining her relationships, her choices, and herself – and wondering if when she goes home, she, too, will have evolved into someone completely different.
Wish You Were Here is the first COVID novel that I’ve read, and given that it’s a story about the coronavirus, I imagine it will be triggering and difficult to read for some people. That being said, it’s apparent that the author did an incredible amount of research surrounding the virus, lockdown, treatment, front-line workers, etc. (the main character’s husband is a doctor), and this novel ended up surprising me in so many ways.
There’s not too much I can say about this haunting story because there’s a huge, shocking, gasp-out-loud twist a little better than halfway through the story that changes everything, and I don’t want to delve into spoiler territory. So I’ll just say that I genuinely enjoyed this compelling and original story. The storytelling was phenomenal with vivid, atmospheric descriptions and an addicting plot-line. Once I got into the book, I had a difficult time putting it down.
Given that the story paints the terrifying and hideous dark truth of COVID, it is heartbreaking and heart-wrenching in places. Readers should definitely be ready for some lump-in-the-throat moments. The author brilliantly captures the all-consuming exhaustion, fear, and anxiety of front-line workers who have to try to do their best to fight the pandemic. But though the story is a heavy one, it’s also ultimately life-affirming and hopeful, and I’m still ruminating on the novel weeks after having read it. I enjoyed the various themes the author inserts into the story, such as planning our lives vs. living them, identifying what’s truly important, found family, and the need for us to examine our motivations & the path we’re on in order to determine what truly matters.
This timely sucker punch of a book, though raw and shattering, was also addicting and utterly engaging and packed with eye-stinging observations and insights. All in all, Wish You Were Here is a masterfully written, poignant story with a gripping plot, displaying the perfect balance of heartbreak and hope that captured my heart.
A huge thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a review copy of this book. This book is set to be published on November 30, 2021.
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