Wish You Were Here

50 pages • 1 hour read

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  • Epigraph and Part 1, Chapters 1-3
  • Part 1, Chapters 4-5
  • Part 1, Chapters 6-11
  • Part 2, Chapters 12-13
  • Part 2, Chapters 14-18 and Epilogue
  • Character Analysis
  • Symbols & Motifs
  • Important Quotes
  • Essay Topics
  • Discussion Questions Beta

Summary and Study Guide

Wish You Were Here (2021) is a novel by Jodi Picoult, which, according to the author, is about “the resilience of the human spirit in a moment of crisis.” The story follows a young woman, Diana O’Toole , who leaves for a vacation to the Galapagos without her boyfriend and gets locked down there as borders close under quarantine during the Covid-19 pandemic. Away from everything and everyone familiar, Diana must adapt to these extraordinary circumstances through a journey of self-reflection, awareness, and connection.

A repeat New York Times best-selling author, Picoult has several novels, short stories, and literary awards under her belt, including the New England Bookseller Award for Fiction and the Sarah Josepha Hale Award. Her writing often focuses on family, love, and relationships. Many of her works have been adapted for the stage and screen, and Wish You Were Here was acquired by Netflix in November 2021, with an intent to adapt it into a feature film.

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Wish You Were Here is set during the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, at the time a crisis of an unprecedented global magnitude. It employs a first-person narrative; the story is told in the voice of its protagonist , Diana, largely following the events unfolding in its present-day timeline. However, using Diana’s responses to, and subsequent reflections on what she is experiencing, Picoult weaves anecdotes from Diana’s past into the narrative to flesh out characters, backstories, and relationships and to foreshadow events and indicate key themes. This guide is based on the 2021 Hodder & Stoughton Kindle edition. The book contains mentions of self-harm and suicide.

Plot Summary

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It is March 2020, and the coronavirus is fast becoming a reality in New York City. Diana O’Toole, a young associate specialist at Sotheby’s, and her boyfriend, Dr. Finn Colson , are meant to be leaving on a vacation to the Galapagos; however, Diana comes home to Finn telling her that he can’t take time off after all—it is all-hands-on-deck at the hospital right now. Finn asks Diana to go without him so that they don’t lose money on the deal; Diana reluctantly agrees.

Diana arrives on the island of Isabela just as it is closing borders for a two-week quarantine. The hotel she was supposed to stay at is closed, but Diana is saved by the generous offer of a place to stay from an old woman who works at the hotel, who calls herself “Abuela.” Diana runs into Abuela’s grandson, Gabriel, and while they get off to a rocky start, Diana eventually befriends him. She also develops a close relationship with Gabriel’s teenaged daughter, Beatriz .

The two-week quarantine extends indefinitely, and Diana spends her time exploring the island with Beatriz and Gabriel. Beatriz opens up to Diana about her mother who abandoned her; the rejection Beatriz faced from Ana Maria, a girl she likes; and about the self-harm Beatriz uses to cope. Meanwhile, the bad cell service on the island leaves Diana unable to reliably stay in touch with Finn. She receives intermittent emails from him with news and updates about the worsening situation in New York, and she replies through letters on postcards.

In one of Finn’s emails, he mentions that the memory care facility where Diana’s mother lives has been trying to contact her. Diana manages to get in touch with them and finds out that they have had a Covid outbreak and her mother is ill. Gabriel begins to spend more time with Diana, and the two grow closer even as Diana begins to feel more distant from Finn. Diana’s mother eventually passes away from Covid, and Diana grapples with guilt over her own indifference. Diana’s mother was barely around throughout Diana’s childhood, and Diana was not close to her. When Gabriel comes over to check on Diana later that night, the two have sex.

A few days later, Gabriel and Diana go swimming together, and Diana begins to drown. She loses consciousness and eventually wakes up with Finn by her side. Diana discovers that she has been in the Covid ward of a hospital in New York for the last 10 days, hooked onto a ventilator for five of them; she never left for the Galapagos at all.

During her time recovering in the hospital, Diana learns that her entire experience of the Galapagos was the result of a ventilator-induced psychosis. She moves from the ICU to the Covid ward, and eventually she goes to rehab to learn to use her body again. She also finds out that she has been furloughed from her job and that her mother is still alive and well. Diana continues to feel lonely and unsettled, for although she has miraculously survived Covid, she misses her life and relationships in the Galapagos, and she is feeling increasingly disconnected from Finn.

After being discharged from the hospital Diana begins to visit her mother regularly at her facility in an attempt to repair their relationship. She also reads about and gets in touch with other Covid survivors who have had similar experiences of realistic dreams while on the ventilator. Diana’s mother eventually does contract Covid and passes away, in an imitation of the events that Diana imagined in the Galapagos; however, this time around, she mourns her mother deeply.

Days after her mother’s death, Finn proposes to Diana. Diana, however, has realized that she is not the same person she was before, and her plans for life have changed; she turns down Finn’s proposal. Three years later, Diana is still living in New York, but she’s sharing an apartment with a friend. She works as a certified art therapist and has finally saved up enough to actually visit the Galapagos. The book ends with a man’s voice calling out to Diana the same way that Gabriel did when they first met, and Diana turning around to see who it is.

Interspersed throughout the novel are Diana’s recollections of anecdotes that highlight her relationships with each of her parents and Finn, as well as the trajectory of her career thus far. These parallel narratives feed into the larger one and help address some of the secondary themes that the book explores: the subjective experience of reality, and the complex nature of love.

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Wish You Were Here

By jodi picoult.

Book review and synopsis for Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult, a novel set during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic about a young woman who ends up stranded on an island in the Galapagos.

Set in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, Wish You Were Here is about an ambitious young woman, Diana, who gets stranded on Isabela Island in the Galapagos Island by herself when the island goes on lockdown. Her boyfriend, Finn, who was supposed to be there with her, is busy tending to COVID patients at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

What was originally supposed to a romantic two-week vacation becomes something quite different, and Diana ends up with a lot time to get to know the island, the locals and to reflect upon her own life.

(The Detailed Plot Summary is also available, below)

Detailed Plot Summary

The two-paragraph version: In March 2020 towards the beginning of the pandemic in the U.S., Diana O’Toole travels to Isabela Island in the Galápagos on vacation by herself after her boyfriend, a doctor, has to stay behind to tend to COVID patients. She becomes stranded there when the island goes on lockdown, and she meets Gabriel Fernandez and his daughter Beatriz. Over the next two months, she reflects on her life and becomes romantically involved with Gabriel. She also helps Beatriz, who is struggling with coming out as gay. In the U.S., Diana’s mother (who she had a complicated relationship with) passes away from COVID.

One day, Diana gets caught in a riptide, and when she awakes she learns she’s in the U.S. and has been being treated for COVID for the last 10 days. She never went to the Galápagos and instead she hallucinated the trip. As Diana tries to make sense of her memories (were they a dream? was it an out of body experience? was it a vision of the future?), she also learns her mother never died and works to resolve her issues with their relationship. Eventually, Diana realizes that even if it wasn’t real, the experience changed her. She decides to change her career and break up with her boyfriend. In the Epilogue, Diana travels to Isabela Island in May 2023. She encounters someone in the same manner that she met Gabriel in her dream. The book ends as she turns around to see who the person is.

In Part One , the book opens on March 13, 2020, and coronavirus cases have just started being detected in the U.S. Diana O’Toole is an ambitious and driven 29-year-old working for Sotheby’s, and her boyfriend Finn is a doctor at New York-Presbyterian. Diana meets with the infamous Kitomi Ito (a fictional stand-in for Yoko Ono) regarding the upcoming auction of a very famous painting by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec . Securing the painting for Sotheby’s was a huge coup for Diana, but today Diana gets the unfortunate news that Kitomi wants to hold off on the auction to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Diana and Finn are supposed to travel to the Galápagos the next day, but Finn ends up staying behind since the hospital needs him. Diana travels alone, but arrives at Isabela Island to learn that it’s under a two-week lockdown due to the virus. Everyone else is leaving, but she impulsively decides to stick around. When she finds out the hotel she booked is also closed, Diana is relieved when an old lady (“ Abuela “) lets her stay in the tiny apartment attached to Abuela’s house.

Diana soon meets Abuela’s son Gabriel and an unhappy 14-year-old girl named Beatriz, who is Gabriel’s daughter with his ex-wife. Beatriz and Gabriel show Diana around the island. Eventually, the two week lockdown turns into two months. Over that time, Diana has limited cell reception and WIFI access, but she gets regular e-mails from Finn detailing the progression of the virus in the States. Diana’s mother with dementia, who was always distant with Diana growing up, gets COVID and passes away.

Meanwhile, Diana also feels a romantic connection with Gabriel and they sleep together. Diana also gets to know Beatriz and learns that she is sad and self-harming because she was rejected by a girl she likes who was too scared to come out to her parents. Eventually, Beatriz comes out to her father, who is accepting of her, and they’re able to start working on their estranged relationship.

One day, Diana and Gabriel go swimming, and Diana gets caught in a riptide. When she awakes, she’s still alive, but she learns that she’s actually in the U.S. Apparently, she’s been ventilated for the last 5 days and has been being treated for COVID for the last 10 days. Diana is informed that she actually never went to the Galápagos and her memories of it are all some type of hallucination or dream .

In Part II , Diana is still recovering from COVID and has to undergo rehab to re-learn how to move, walk and eat. With much effort, she eventually gets released from the hospital.

Diana also learns that she’s been furloughed from Sotheby’s, which means she is now jobless. She starts considering going back to school to study art therapy. Diana also starts to rethink her relationship with Finn, which she realizes was more suited to the person she was before. However, her experiences on Isabela Island — real or not — have changed her and she’s no longer sure they want the same thing.

Meanwhile, she tries to make sense of her memories that feel very vivid and real to her. Diana starts looking into survivors who have similar stories as hers about vivid hallucinations. Possible theories include it being merely a hallucination as a bodily response to stress or perhaps it’s an out of body experience or alternate reality or something else altogether.

At the same time, Diana learns that her mother is still alive and becomes determined to take the opportunity to spend time with her while she can. She starts visiting her mother frequently (from afar due to COVID restrictions), even though her mother’s dementia means that she doesn’t recognize her. She makes peace with her mother being an imperfect and distant mother during her childhood. There’s eventually a COVID outbreak at her mother’s assisted living facility, and her mother falls ill. Diana goes to see her, and her mother’s memory is temporarily clear again. They share a moment and her mother soon passes away.

Soon afterwards, Finn proposes to Diana, but she turns him down, saying that he did nothing wrong, but he’s not right for her.

In the Epilogue , it’s now May 2023. Diana has completed her art therapy degree and has her own practice. She travels to Isabela Island. At the tortoise enclosure, someone stops her as she reaches inside, which is same manner that she met Gabriel in her dream. The book ends as she turns around to see who the person is.

For more detail, see the full Chapter-by-Chapter Summary .

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Book Review

Wish You Were Here is Jodi Picoult’s take on a novel about the pandemic. It opens on March 13, 2020, when cases of the virus had just started being reported in the United States.

The main character of Diana is an ambitious and driven New Yorker who is working for Sotheby’s on art acquisitions. She has planned a vacation to the Galápagos with her boyfriend Finn, but he’s a doctor at New York-Presbyterian who ends up having to stay to care for COVID patients. Instead, Diana goes alone, gets stranded there and in the process ends up reflecting on various aspects of her life and relationships.

For most of the book, our protagonist Diana is stuck on Isabela Island in the Galápagos, and much of the narrative is devoted to her exploring her surroundings and getting to know a local family. The book also describes the progression of the pandemic through e-mails from Finn in New York.

As you might expect, Wish You Were Here feels a little heavy, despite the picturesque, sun-kissed setting where most of it takes place, partially because of the time period it’s in. It’s also worth noting that the general pacing of the book is a bit slow.

In Wish You Were Here , Jodi Picoult seems to be trying to capture what was going on that year and tapping into the collective self-reflection that many people went through that year.

In this story, Picoult explores Diana’s professional aspirations, her romantic relationship with her boyfriend and her relationship with her mother with dementia. The story also focuses on a father and daughter she meets in the Galápagos who are going through their own difficulties as well.

Some Criticisms

As a warning, it bothered me quite a bit how often and how casually the various characters broke things like quarantine or lockdown rules or put other people at risk of possibly contracting COVID. At times it felt like they were treated as inconveniences as opposed to life-saving measures. You might want to consider if reading about instances of these types of things will be upsetting to you, especially if you’ve lost someone close to you to COVID.

Beyond that, the short version of this review is that: I am a little surprised by the many positive reviews this book has gotten. To be totally honest, I was often bored reading this book and struggled to stay interested throughout most of it.

Having just gone through (and technically we’re still going through) the pandemic, those parts felt like a retread of stuff I already knew. I followed these stories pretty closely at the time they were happening, and I don’t think I learned anything or came away with any type of novel perspectives. Sure, the topic is timely, but so what?

As for the other parts of the book, a lot of it seemed to be offering up surface-level type insights. At one point there’s a section about how “anything can be art” or how “falling can feel like flying” — and it just seemed like a mish-mosh of sentiments I’d come across before in other forms.

The book takes a turn part-way through the latter half of the book. At this point the narrative manages to be even slower paced than before, and I really struggled to finish it. I think some people will appreciate the message it imparts at the end, but for me it seemed like a fairly long-winded way to say things that I didn’t find to be all that impactful.

synopsis of book wish you were here

Read it or Skip it?

Others have described this book as “moving” or “emotional”, but I really felt very little while reading this. I’ll admit that it sounds like I’m in the minority here though, so perhaps your mileage will vary.

In general, I have a hard time recommending Picoult’s books to people. Of the ones I’ve read, I’ve found that they tend to be fairly slowly paced and littered with overlong lectures on various academic topics. There’s always lengthy stretches where the book drags severely.

Overall, I sadly did not enjoy this book, but I’m curious to hear from others who did like this book though! What parts of it spoke to you?

Are you reading this or thinking about reading this? Share your thoughts below!

See Wish You Were Here on Amazon.

P.S. If you’re interested in reading a pandemic-related book that I liked, Hamnet: A Novel of the Plague is set in the late 1500’s in England during the Black Plague, and it’s a great read that reframes the story of the life of William Shakespeare through the lens of his wife, Agnes (Anne) Hathaway.

Spoiler-ish Thoughts Start Here

I found the timeline of the book distracting and it made the whole book make less sense. When she wakes up from her “dream”, we learn that it’s March 24th, 2020. However, regardless of whether it was a dream or some type of out of body experience, I couldn’t tell if Picoult purposely included events from the future or if it was some type of error on her part.

If it was a dream up (or experience in a secondary form), then are we supposed to believe she dreamt up specific details about the how the pandemic would play out in the future?

She dreamed up letters where her boyfriend writes about mask requirements back in late-March 2020 when that literally wasn’t a thing that existed? CDC mask recommendations didn’t start until April 2020 . Mask requirements in NYC began in mid-April . In fact, in late March, the CDC was still actively discouraging general use of masks.

Also, she dreamed up a Navy barge being sent to NYC? That was announced in the last week of March. She also dreamed up images of bodies piled up in refrigerated trucks? That also didn’t happen yet in mid-March 2020 .

The alternative is that she somehow had an out of body experience where she time-traveled into the future? That seems a bit weird. I mean I can buy the idea that not everything that happens in life is explainable, but time-traveling out-of-body experiences is a bit out there.

Anyway, I think there is purposely supposed to be some ambiguity there as to what really happened, but the muddled timeline was kind of a distraction for me — especially since the character of Diana doesn’t address it in the book at all so I couldn’t tell if it was an oversight or if it was specifically meant to be events from the future.

Wish You Were Here Audiobook Review

Narrated by : Marin Ireland Length : 11 hours 47 minutes

Hear a sample of the Wish You Were Here audiobook on Libro.fm.

Discussion Questions for Wish You Were Here

  • What were your initial impressions of the character of Diana? How did that shift throughout the book? How does her attitude shift throughout the book?
  • Why do you think Diana starts to feel disconnected with Finn and what did you think of his character? Why do you think Diana cheats on him and breaks up with him later?
  • What did you think of the relationship between Gabriel and Beatriz? Do you think they would have managed to figure out a way to start working through their relationship if Diana hadn’t been there?
  • What did you think of the plot twist going from Part I into Part II? Did you see it coming or was it surprise to you?
  • What did you think of Diana’s relationship with her mother, and why do you think she’s able to make peace with her relationship with her mother? Do you think you would’ve done the same? Why do you think it was important to her to see her mother face-to-face before she died?
  • What parts of this story spoke to you the most?
  • What did you think of Rodney’s comment to Diana that getting COVID is the first truly difficult thing that’s ever happened to her? Do you think his comment was fair?
  • By the end of the book, what do you think was the explanation for Diana’s experience in the Galapagos? Was the resolution of this satisfying to you?
  • What do you think happens after the final scene described in the Epilgue?

Book Excerpt

Read the first pages of Wish You Were Here

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Libro.fm Audiobooks

Diana O’Toole is perfectly on track. She will be married by thirty, done having kids by thirty-five, 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 thirtieth 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.

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I thought about reading this one and didn’t because, honestly, it sounded kind of boring. Excellent review and thanks for the info!

I hurried through the first part of Wish You Were Here, because I had checked two books from the library at the same time. I’m a slow reader and thought it would take too much time. I was surprised by part two, which I read slowly! I enjoyed it immensely, fascinated with Diana’s co-experiences. Thank you, Jodi Picoult

When she was able to go and pick up some things at the little store on Isabella Island, they had masks with patterns on them… That really bothered me because those weren’t a thing until a little later in the pandemic. There is no way those masks would have been in that store already at that time.

I enjoyed your review more than the book, probably because your sentiments echoed mine. However, I would be more harsh on grading- 1.5 to 2 stars. The second half of the book was boring and nonsensical. The Galapagos narrative section was the most interesting, and the main characters far more compelling than the American ones. I would have much rather seen the conflict, and ultimate resolution, of Diana choosing which world to inhabit. Part Two was DOA for me.

I have enjoyed some of Picoult’s previous efforts( wide range of hit and miss) but the last two have been unsatisfying. Forrest Gump would say her writing is like a box of chocolates.

I have read many Jodi Picoult books and have enjoyed them all. I was dismayed to discover that the author seemed to base two characters on John Lennon and Yoko Ono. In addition she appears to have copied a scene from Grey’s Anatomy where one of the doctors mistakenly ordered booties instead of the much needed masks. One could say that Diana’s adventures in the Galapagos follows Meredith’s dreams on the beach in Grey’s Anatomy. Deliberate? Mistake? Only the author knows.

Read the book – thankfully from the Libby app ! It seemed interesting at the start. It later became a struggle to get through – I’ll say no more.

For all the emotional realism of COVID-related days turning into years and real life struggles, this book doesn’t capture any of that. Diana is selfish, and I ultimately don’t really care a lot about her in the end.

Thanks for your review. I have now given up after reaching the poisonous apples. The first mention of COVID I hated the book, there is no mention on the blurb. Aren’t we tired of this who wants to escape in a book of fiction to hear false statements. Did we know to socially distance as a term as early as March? No way. I’m returning this book tomorrow, have been a fan of Jodi in the past now I’ll read a sample before committing.

I did not like the book and would not recommend this book. Actually toward the end I skimmed the pages. It was a depressing book. I like her books but not this one. Would definitely not recommend it!

I don’t plan to read this book. I happened to be in the Galapagos Islands during the last week of February 2020. When I returned to the USA, Covid had really spread around the globe. Guayaquil is Ecuador’s gateway city to the Galapagos Islands, and it had a huge spike of Covid cases early in the pandemic. By late March 2020, Guayaquil’s morgues were overflowing, with dead bodies in coffins left on the streets. There are tales of people dying at home with dead bodies lefts for a while waiting for the overwhelmed city morgue to collect them. I counted my blessings that I left had returned safely. I’m not sure how the book addressed this travesty, but there is no way anyone would have enjoyed a holiday there or the Galapagos Islands.

Iagree with everthing you’ve written here. I just finished the book. Very disappointed.

6 ft tall Galapagueños? Exchanging dollars for local currency? No mention of the fact that Ecuador had a huge covid spike before NY? Postcards in the mail? Did she get her info on Galapagos/Ecuador from a trip in the 90s… I get it’s a dream, but at least she could get the local currency right.

So interesting, I didn’t know the currency there is the US dollar. If I had known that before reading, that would have definitely annoyed me! But what does your comment about postcards mean?

Struggling w this book. I usually enjoy this author a lot…this feels like a predictable romance novel. Missing Jodi’s normal edge.

I actually read this book in one sitting. Without getting into the out of sequence details which is poetic license and I did not have an issue with because this is not a history lesson on the pandemic but a woman’s journey of discovery. I also examined who these characters were in relation to herself and what parts they played in her real life. Gabriel being the most interesting and wondered how purposefully the author chose that name. The twist was a surprise, reminded me of another book, The Shack. I also liked the idea of someone being in an entirely new environment allowing that person to discover or become something more, new, different. So I guess we have two very different perspectives. I truly enjoyed this book.

The obvious thing about this book is that the authour was pro vax, pro mask and pro mandate. Read it if you want to feel lectured and see the world of covid through CNN and MSNBC. As a healthcare professional, I found this book annoying and ridiculous. Skip it and spend your time living your life with covid as an after thought.

I loved this book! The first part of the story was a bit dreamy and the timeline seemed a little off, but it all made sense when she woke in the ICU. Patients perceive time and space differently while they are sedated and intubated. Initially, it felt jarring to make the sudden change, but that is real for patients. I found this book to be well researched and totally engaging. I did not focus on dates or details, but enjoyed the dream-like quality that was so well captured. Great story that is well told.

I thought it was poorly written, trite about a very serious thing, extremely predictable (the twist was surprising And not) too many clichés served on a platter. Just a silly book thst should have been important and well done.

I really enjoyed this book! I know we disagree on that, but, your questioning why she “dreamt” about things that hadn’t happened yet is kind of strange. The whole last third of the book is her questioning whether or not she had a “coma dream” or if she was basically living an alternate reality. So yeah, it’s crazy that she “dreamt” about the mask mandates and the Navy ship, but isn’t that the point?

I really loved the first half of the book in the Galapagos, and I didn’t expect the twist (but I’m not the type of person to be expecting twists like that…I just read and see where it takes me). I just hope she finds Gabriel in the end.

Hi Janice, always happy to hear from readers who disagree with me and are able to be friendly and constructive in doing so! Glad to hear that you enjoyed the book!

My issue with the last third of the book had to do with the fact that the events of the book include some that didn’t happen yet in real life — it seemed like perhaps some diligence in researching the dates when stuff happened would’ve made it make more sense to me.

And yes I agree an unexpected twist in a book can be really satisfying :)

I love all of Jodie’s books and I think you are being way too harsh. They are fiction after all and all writers get to take a leave from the actual truth. “ “Why spoil a good story for a modicum of truth?All of Jodie’s books are very well researched- I always learn something new. Who knew about the coma dreams? I’m a huge fan of her writing and this hasn’t disappointed.

Thanks for this review. I just finished reading it and ran to the Net to see if anyone loved it. I was surprised to see so many 5* reviews because well, I just felt manipulated. My irritation then unfortunately translated into me not caring about “what happens next”, but I finished it anyway….and was annoyed again.

Just read this book, I agree it was boring and slow paced. But I was shocked at the twist and unhappy with the ending. So many unanswered questions.

This book was horribly disappointing. I read the storyteller prior and thought that book was fantastic. Slow, but fantastic. This book is good enough until the “it was all a dream” cliche gets thrown in. After that it’s horrible. I had to force myself through the 100 pages describing how to put in a ventilator and the training manual about how to conduct a swallow test after covid. It felt like a weird attempt to insert unnecessary medical knowledge, not enhance and tell a story. Character development outside of Beatriz is weak and there’s no real emotional attachment to the main character.

I agree wholeheartedly with your review, boring, and really a stretch of the imagination. Who wants to relive the pandemic? How do you explain the ongoing progression in Covid protocols and numbers if Finn’s emails were imaginary? Then the big plot twist that makes no sense at all. I regret wasting a hour of my life on this boring book.

I loved the book & have read it twice! It kept me on the edge of my seat and had a hard time putting it down!! In the end I was hoping when she woke from her coma she would find the man she was truly falling for in Galapagos Those who didn’t like it perhaps don’t have much of an imagination we new it was fiction!

So upset that I spend over 6 hrs listening to this audiobook to find out the majority of this story was based on a lucid dream/psychosis. Even before this point I was pushing myself to get through the book bc I found it quite boring and trite. What a terrible ending and waste of time. Deleting this and not risking another credit on a Piccoult pick. Had chosen this bc I listened to Mad Honey which I thought was good, while also similar in the hidden subtext of pro-LGBTQIA. One star. Terrible.

Very poorly researched which is really disappointing for a Jodi Picoult novel. Poorly done. Slow. And the worst part is people that read this book 20 years from now will think that the “facts” in the book are accurate.

I do find a lot of her books boring but the thing that bothered me right away was that she blatantly used Yoko as her client. Could t she have created a character just as intriguing without copying their life, death, home, etc. it disturbed me since I remember that all so well and distracted me from the get go.

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Wish You Were Here

Jodi picoult.

310 pages, Hardcover

First published November 30, 2021

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Famed author Jodi Picoult novelizes the pandemic in new book 'Wish You Were Here'


Scott Simon

Mia Estrada

Ian Stewart

Melissa Gray

synopsis of book wish you were here

Author Jodi Picoult attends the STARZ mid-season premiere of "Outlander" at the Ziegfeld Theatre on April 1, 2015, in New York. Evan Agostini/Evan Agostini/Invision/AP hide caption

Author Jodi Picoult attends the STARZ mid-season premiere of "Outlander" at the Ziegfeld Theatre on April 1, 2015, in New York.

Author Jodi Picoult says she couldn't wrap her head around how she might tell the story of the pandemic — to both memorialize it and make sense of it.

synopsis of book wish you were here

Wish You Were Here, by Jodi Picoult Ballantine Books hide caption

Wish You Were Here, by Jodi Picoult

That was until she heard the true story of a Japanese tourist that ended up stranded in Machu Picchu due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Instead of going back home to Japan, the tourist, named Jesse Katayama, wound up staying in the gateway community of Aguas Calientes for months until the government offered Katayama special permission to see the historical site.

"I thought, oh, I've never been to Machu Picchu. I can't write about that, and I'm not going in 2020," Picoult told Scott Simon on Weekend Edition . "But I have been to the Galápagos. We took our kids there many years ago, and it's everyone's bucket list destination. And I thought, surely somebody got stuck there."

Picoult did find someone. There was a young Scottish man trapped in the Galápagos. She tracked him down and did an interview with him and the families he stayed with. From there, she began to craft her story.

In Picoult's 26st novel Wish You Were Here , released Tuesday — with rights already sold to Netflix — she centers on Diana O'Toole, who is on the verge of 30, an associate specialist at Sotheby's and about to fly off to the Galápagos with her boyfriend, Finn, who's a surgical resident. Everything is going according to plan for Diana.

Author Interviews

'small great things' author jodi picoult talks about inspired the novel.

Then March 13, 2020 happens. The pandemic.

Finn is told by his boss, as Picoult notes, "You are not allowed to leave the hospital. And he says to his girlfriend, 'Look, this vacation is paid for. You should go.'"

And so Diana does. But upon arrival, she is told the island will shut down for two weeks. Her accommodations are voided, and she has to find a way to get by on an island that does not have stable Wi-Fi or good cell service.

She's all alone on the island where Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection was formed. Picoult said being there "it's like a beautiful metaphor."

Diana begins re-evaluating her life — her relationships, choices and herself — wondering when she returns back home, would she have evolved into another person?

"Diana really learns to re-evaluate the goals she had and the life she wanted and begins to ask herself, 'Why did I want those things in the first place?' - which I think is an experience that many of us had," Picoult said. "The pandemic was such a strange time because we were all so isolated, but we were all feeling the same things. You know, we just weren't connecting about it."

In the Galápagos, Diana learns a lot, not just about herself, but also her job and art, working with impressionist paintings.

"I kept thinking a lot about impressionism, and I kept thinking about how if you see a Monet painting from 6 inches away, it's a lot of blobs of pretty color," Picoult said. "But if you step back a few feet, you go, 'Oh, it's a cathedral; oh, it's water lilies' — because you have perspective. And we are just now beginning to get perspective on what 2020 was."

Jodi Picoult Turns Tough Topics Into Best-Sellers

Jodi Picoult Turns Tough Topics Into Best-Sellers

As for Picoult, she said learned a lot too, noting how she's a "control freak." And like a lot of us, she said she learned that it's OK to grieve for the things you've lost.

But she also pointed to the idea that maybe some of us found new measures of success.

"Maybe it's not getting a degree or a promotion or a slot on a bestseller list," she said. "Maybe instead it is having your health and knowing your family's healthy, having a roof over your head, being able to hold the hand of someone who's dying," she said. "You know, and suddenly, I think having all these new senses of what our priorities are, that's what I'm really interested in. Maybe we will be better and stronger in the future because of it."

NPR's Ian Stewart produced Scott Simon's interview with Jodi Picoult for NPR's Weekend Edition. Kroc Fellow Mia Estrada adapted it for the web.

synopsis of book wish you were here

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Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

Wish You Were Here Summary & Study Guide

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Wish You Were Here Summary & Study Guide Description

The following version of this book was used to create the guide: Picoult, Jodi. Wish You Were Here . Ballantine Books, 2021.

Picoult’s novel contains two parts. Part 1 takes place mainly in the Galápagos Islands and Part 2 takes place in Manhattan. Diana O’Toole, a 29-year-old auction specialist at Sotheby’s, narrates the story from a first-person perspective.

The story begins on March 13, 2020 as Covid arrives in Manhattan. Diana and her boyfriend, Finn, are preparing for their upcoming trip to the Galápagos, where Diana expects Finn to propose. However, Finn, a medical resident, is unable to go as he is needed at New York-Presbyterian Hospital where he works. He insists that Diana travels anyway. Diana reluctantly agrees to go alone.

Diana arrives as Isabela Island goes into lockdown. When Diana discovers that her hotel is closed, a woman identifying herself as “Abuela” offers her spare apartment to Diana. Diana ventures out from the apartment to find food and picks up an apple after she sees a tortoise eat one. A stranger grabs her, yelling “Cuidado!” as he cautions her away from the apples, poisonous to humans.

Diana goes swimming the next day and meets a teenage girl engaging in self-harm. She leaves when Diana tries to speak with her. Diana returns to her apartment to discover the stranger who grabbed her yelling at Abuela. The stranger is Abuela’s grandson, Gabriel. He leaves, walking across the street to embrace the girl Diana met earlier.

On another morning, Diana finds the same girl collecting trash on the beach. She is Gabriel’s daughter, Beatriz. They spend the next morning together as Diana shows Beatriz how to use trash to enhance sand sculptures. A week later, Diana learns that Beatriz is staying with Abuela. Gabriel barges into Abuela’s house to talk to her, but Diana cautions him to be gentle, telling him that Beatriz self-harms. Gabriel apologizes the following morning and offers to show Diana the island since Beatriz has been happier since she began spending time with Diana.

Beatriz and Gabriel each develop a relationship with Diana, taking her for hikes and showing her Isabela.

After two weeks, Diana prepares to go home. Beatriz tells her that she cannot leave due to travel restrictions. To cheer her up, Gabriel, Beatriz, and Diana visit a lagoon filled with flamingos.

A few days later, Diana phones her mother at the Greens, a memory care facility. Hannah, her mother, has Covid. To distract Diana, Gabriel takes her to explore the lava tunéles. He indicates again that Beatriz is much happier when she is with Diana. They hike, engaged in deep conversation, until a park ranger asks them to leave.

Beatriz later takes Diana for a hike down into the trillizos, the collapsed lava tunnels. Diana learns that Beatriz is unhappy because she has unrequited feelings for her host sister from her magnet school. In a moment of desperation, Beatriz lets go of the ladder keeping her safe, but Diana saves her.

After four weeks on Isabela, Gabriel, Beatriz, and Abuela celebrate Diana’s birthday. Diana realizes that she feels completely content. Gabriel and Diana spend the night together talking and drinking under the stars. The next morning, he takes her on a hike to a volcano. Diana’s mother passes away later that night. When Gabriel checks on Diana, they kiss. They give into their feelings and sleep together. The next morning, Beatriz discovers them in bed together and realizes that they had been intimate. She runs away, but Gabriel and Diana find her in the trillizos.

Weeks later, Gabriel takes Diana to a beach. Gabriel confesses his feelings for Diana as they swim, saying that he is certain they are meant to be together. Diana gets caught in a current. Gabriel attempts to save her, but Diana realizes that they both will drown unless she lets go of him. She resigns herself to drowning and lets go.

Diana wakes up in the hospital with Covid to learn that she never went to the Galápagos.

Finn tells Diana that she went to the emergency room with a fever after they talked about their trip. She became unstable and was put on a ventilator for five days. She woke up after she was extubated.

Diana struggles after five days of intubation. She needs physical and occupational therapy. She has difficulty processing her time in the Galápagos as a dream. However, Diana learns that her mother is alive and well.

Once Diana graduates from rehab, she returns home with Finn.

Home alone while Finn works, Diana reconsiders her career, exploring the idea of art therapy. That night, Finn starts to propose to Diana as they watch a movie, but she flees to the bathroom to prevent the moment from happening.

Diana, determined not to waste her second chance at life, visits Hannah at the Greens a few days later. Due to Covid restrictions, she has lunch with her on the grass while Hannah remains on her porch.

As Diana falls asleep one night, she dreams of Gabriel, continuing from the moment she left the Galápagos. Diana wakes up sobbing.

In May, Diana learns that Hannah has Covid. She sneaks into the Greens to visit Hannah in person. Hannah, lucid in the last days of her life, tells Diana how she wanted to be a mother desperately, but was so bad at it that she left the parenting to Diana’s father so that Diana would be happy. Two days later, Hannah dies, devastating Diana.

Finn takes Diana to one of their favorite parks to lift her spirits after her mother’s death. He proposes to her, but Diana rejects him, realizing that they want different things.

Three years later, Diana is an art therapist and has moved on from Finn. She arrives on Isabela Island. As she reaches into the tortoise enclosure, she falls. A stranger grabs her, cautioning “Cuidado!” and ending the novel.

Read more from the Study Guide

View Wish You Were Here Chapters 1 - 2



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  1. Wish You Were Here Summary and Study Guide

    Wish You Were Here (2021) is a novel by Jodi Picoult, which, according to the author, is about “the resilience of the human spirit in a moment of crisis.”

  2. Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

    Jodi Picoult 3.94 210,198 ratings20,518 reviews Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Best Fiction (2022) A deeply moving novel about the resilience of the human spirit in a moment of crisis. Diana O'Toole is perfectly on track.

  3. Jodi Picoult's 'Wish You Were Here' is a novel about life

    Jodi Picoult's 'Wish You Were Here' is a novel about life during the pandemic : NPR Books Famed author Jodi Picoult novelizes the pandemic in new book 'Wish You Were Here'...

  4. Wish You Were Here Summary & Study Guide

    Ballantine Books, 2021. Picoult’s novel contains two parts. Part 1 takes place mainly in the Galápagos Islands and Part 2 takes place in Manhattan. Diana O’Toole, a 29-year-old auction specialist at Sotheby’s, narrates the story from a first-person perspective. The story begins on March 13, 2020 as Covid arrives in Manhattan.