HARVESTING THE HEART by Jodi Picoult narrated by Cassandra Campell

Author Jodi Picoult writes with such empathy and this novel was well supported by Cassandra Campbell’s superb narration. Here is the tale of a young woman who marries up into a family so wealthy it is beyond her wildest imaginings. But she marries fast after a whirlwind courtship at the age of 19, with no family to sustain her. She is semi-estranged from her father, and her mother disappeared when she was five. At age 19, she wants to go to college, to art school. But a tragedy and the ensuing guilt cause her to leave her home in Chicago for Cambridge Massachusetts. To make ends meet, she waitresses in a restaurant, where she meets Nicholas, the only child of wealth, and an incredibly driven young man who wants to be a heart surgeon.

Women who live this Cinderella story have to cope with the aftermath of trying to fit into a new culture they do not understand, and perhaps dislike. And people tend not to be kind, especially if one is young, beautiful and has snapped up a powerful handsome man that other women tend to swoon over.

Her account of Paige O’Toole’s efforts to fit in with her husband’s colleagues and their snobbish wives brought back memories of my own, when I had to spend my twenties (I married at 21) adjusting to a different country, different climate, different cuisine, different expectations and people who were twenty years older than myself.

Of course Jodi Picoult’s second novel has its flaws, and several readers have complained about Paige’s behavior and a couple of plot twists they found implausible. But her characters Paige, husband Nicholas, in-laws Astrid & Robert, parents Patrick & May (Lila) are so well-drawn, that I sat up into the wee hours last night so that I could finish it. Five stars.