Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Second Nature - Jacquelyn Mitchard

I was one of the 20 gazillion people who read Jacquelyn Mitchard's "Deep End of the Ocean" way back when it was an Oprah book, and when it was made into a movie starring Michelle Pfeiffer.  I loved it but it disturbed me deeply.  Briefly, the story was about a photographer (Beth Cappadora) who turns her back on her two sons for only a moment in a hotel lobby, when the youngest, Ben, is kidnapped by a mentally ill woman.  Nine years later, after utter destruction of the family, Ben is discovered and brought back home.

When I was approached recently by Maria at Random House to review Mitchard's new book (in which the Cappadora family plays an important but supporting role in the plot) I jumped at the opportunity to experience her work once again, and to find out what was going on with the family that simultaneously stole and broke my heart all those years ago.

Synopsis:  Sicily Coyne was only 13-years old when she lost her face in a fire that also killed her firefighter father.  Soon after, she lost her mother in a tragic accident.  Her life has been spent being raised by a dynamic and loving aunt, and undergoing dozens of surgeries and battling infections.  Sicily is now a confident young woman, an accomplished medical illustrator, and is engaged to a man who knew her before her face was a horrifying mask.  When she is approached by Eliza Cappadora, a transplant surgeon (and coincidentally, married to the once-abducted Ben Cappadora), for a revolutionary face transplant, Sicily refuses.  Why would she want to endure yet another surgery, and risk an infection or even her life for superficial beauty? 

A devastating heartbreak, however, changes Sicily's perspective, and she decides to receive a face transplant from a young woman who is in an irreversible coma.  Sicily enlists Beth Cappadora, who is a still a photographer, to document the journey.  Sicily faces a future of beauty, but also a lifetime of anti-rejection drugs and possible relapses, and the probability of not being able to have children because of these medications.  Everything, it seems, has a price.

As Sicily becomes more and more a part of the Cappadora family, and experiences a life she never dreamed she would have, she is suddenly faced with some unexpected, controversial and ethical dilemmas.  Ones that are of life and death, loneliness and happiness, of life stifled or liberated.  


My thoughts:  This is one of those books that it pays not to know TOO much about the plot.  I promise you I have been vague enough in my description to keep you protected!  And the plot was all over the place...this was truly a four-dimensional book.  There are dozens of threads, of discussion-worthy choices and dilemmas.  Enough to make a book club swoon.

I was thrilled to see the Cappadoras again.  On the surface, they had all grown up and gone on with their lives since Ben's abduction. But there were scars underneath that affected every move they made, that affected not only their family but Sicily as well.

I enjoyed Sicily as a protagonist.  She was full of piss and vinegar, having developed an outer shell of humor and barbed sarcasm to help her cope with her disfigurement.  She had a mildly annoying way of pushing people away at times, but completely understandable.  Any lesser of a personality would not have been able to pull off this role.

While the story captured my heart and mind in the first half of the book, however, I became slightly disenchanted in the last half.  The plot did a 90 degree turn into a completely different direction, which, in principle, I was OK with.  But it became bogged down with a confusing quagmire of awkward relationship angst.  The dialogue was out of sync, and I never really knew what was going on after there had been one of many of these "discussions", which were painful to me.  Was it all realistic?  Yes probably.  Relationships are often this way.  But it slowed down the momentum of the book.

I still would recommend the book however.  Face transplants absolutely FASCINATE me.  I had to Google some real-life examples, and I just shake my head at the magic created at the hands of today's surgeons.  Mitchard's writing is also compelling and creates characters that feel like they are about to walk off the pages and into your life.

4 out of 5 stars       
    

20 comments:

Pam (@iwriteinbooks) said...

I'm always sort of bummed when book plummets in the end. Sound pretty good overall aside form that and face transplants totally creep me out!

Jenny said...

Wow sounds like an intense topic! I didn't read the deep end of the ocean but saw the movie. I did read something by this author that I really liked but I can't recall the title. This one definitely sounds like something I'd like, even with the second half being not as good as the first. Thanks for pointing this out!

Beth F said...

Had to skim this because it's on my list. I'll read this regardless because I read Deep End when it was first published and loved it.

Beth(bookaholicmom) said...

Too bad this book doesn't follow the same formula as The Deep End if the Ocean. That was an awesome read! I will read this though since I love the Cappadora family. and like you enjoy seeing what they are up to and how they are faring after Ben's abduction. I read No Time To Wave Goodbye, which features the Cappadora's also. It was good but didn't have the same magic as Deep End.

bermudaonion said...

This sounds like a very compelling book, even if the ending goes a little astray. I'm wondering how I missed Mitchard's other book - it sounds great too.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I have avoided Mitchard because her books, with bad things happening, always sound too depressing to me. So I'm glad to hear the second half slips, so I can once again not read it....

Anita said...

Robin Kall told me she was reading this and told me to add it, and now your review has really piqued my interest Sandy. Thanks for not sharing too much.
I didn't read Mitchard's fist book either, but I did enjoy the movie.
Thank you for the review, well done!

Julie P. said...

This one appeals to me... I might give this one a try.

Zibilee said...

I have also been fascinated by face transplants, and think that based on that plot point alone, I would read this book. I actually would like to read both this one and Deep End of the Ocean because it would be interesting to see how and where the characters from both books interconnect. If I do get the chance to read these, I will have to remember your comments about the last half of this one and see if I end up feeling the same way. This was an intensely intriguing review. Not only because the subject matter of the book is so interesting, but because your thoughts on it were too. Thanks for sharing this.

raych said...

'lost her face in a fire'...

That's the kind of crazy shit that cranks my chain.

Darlene said...

I loved Deep End of the Ocean and loved it. I was interested in this book but I had heard a few people with the same thoughts as you regarding the last half of the book and I've shied away from it. I may read it one of these days.

Meg said...

Hmm... sounds compelling. Like Pam above, though, face transplants really creep me out! I'd be interested in the dynamics behind it all, though. And plots revolving around ethical/moral dilemmas are always good conversation starters!

farmlanebooks said...

I haven't even heard of Deep End of the Ocean or Jacquelyn Mitchard which I suppose only proves that Oprah doesn't have a big affect on the UK. I do love the sound of Ocean, so I think I'll add that to the list and if I enjoy that then I can look into Second Nature. Face transplants freak me out too!

Melody said...

Wow, this sounds like a compelling read! I've not read any of Mitchard's books so I'll have to check them out. Thanks for the great review, Sandy!

Jenners said...

I was wondering if face transplants was a real thing!? I'm afraid to Google it though. I don't actually want to see the process.

And I've read a few of Mitchard's books since her first one and was never blown away. However, her books of essays are much better. She has quite an interesting life -- being a widow, getting remarried, having a child via a surrogate (I think).

Trisha said...

You have made me want to read both books...I've never watched the DEotO movie either. :0

Jennifer Lane said...

Deep End of the Ocean made me bawl and this book sounds like it would need some tissues too. Great review!

Amy said...

I didn't realize the family from The Deep End of th Ocean plays a role in this book. I agree Deep End was very disturbing. Very well done, too. I am biased towards books about medical conditions whether diseases or deformities or results of terrible accidents. Since I have experienced Mitchard's writing before, it would be difficult for me not to read this book since you didn't pan it! I'm a little disappointed in the strange second half of the book but still looking forward to reading it.

Thank you for another terrific review, Sandy!

Kathleen said...

I read The Deep End of the Ocean all those years ago too and would love to read another book that has that family in it. This sounds like an intriguing read. I'm fascinated by face transplants and how someone stays themselves when they look like another person!

Melissa said...

I always kind of skim reviews because I don't EVER want to know too much about a books plot. Sounds interesting though. And I am probably one of the few who never read Deep End of the Ocean.