Summary: For eighteen years the Hartes and the Golds have lived next door to each other, sharing everything from Chinese food to chicken pox to carpool duty– they’ve grown so close it seems they have always been a part of each other’s lives. Parents and children alike have been best friends, so it’s no surprise that in high school Chris and Emily’s friendship blossoms into something more. They’ve been soul mates since they were born.
So when midnight calls from the hospital come in, no one is ready for the appalling truth: Emily is dead at seventeen from a gunshot wound to the head. There’s a single unspent bullet in the gun that Chris took from his father’s cabinet– a bullet that Chris tells police he intended for himself. But a local detective has doubts about the suicide pact that Chris has described.
Source: I purchased a paperback
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I’ve only read one other Jodi Picoult novel and I enjoyed it, finding it much better written than the light chick-lit I was expecting. So I brought home a stack of her books from the used bookstore that sounded promising and started with The Pact.
The Pact was a good story, but not the story I wanted or expected. I know that sounds strange. I feel conflicted, frustrated, and empty after reading it because, while it gave me a story full of secrets and drama, it left so many doors unopened. Chris and Emily had been together since childhood and when she was found shot in the head, Chris blamed it on a suicide pact. Later, he was tried for murder. The story was told in the present with bits and pieces from before the murder/suicide, along with bits from the past when Chris and Emily were kids.
I felt like I got a decent glimpse of the parents as they forged their friendships and had Chris and Emily. I felt like I got a pretty good account of what was happening with Chris in the present. But aside from those two storylines, I felt like the rest of the story was full of holes and blind spots and I wasn’t given enough information. The book was written in third person and featured nearly all of the characters, but I never got inside everyone’s heads and the storyline called for a more introspective narrative.
The relationships and friendships in the story were crazy and twisted. Chris and Emily were a strange couple because they had hardly any memories apart from each other. Chris went from viewing her as a sister type to seeing her as a woman and fell madly in love. For Emily, things were a bit different, but I know she felt connected to Chris on a deep level. While everyone else saw a mature and perfect couple, I felt like they were terrible and thrown together by circumstance. It’s not like they could part and ever get away from each other. They’d disappoint so many people. And that fact had to be part of Emily’s problem. It almost felt like they were one giant family up until Emily died.
Mostly, Emily annoyed me. I never understood why she wanted to kill herself. There were things that happened to her that had something to do with her not liking her life, but I feel like she either came from a family that communicated enough for her to have told someone at one point or she would have acted less well adjusted and her family would have noticed. I just never bought that no one except Chris knew about it or weren’t surprised. I can’t believe that the nurse wouldn’t have asked more questions after her reaction at the clinic, either, to uncover Emily’s state of mind. Emily’s character frustrated me so much and I don’t know if I have a legitimate complaint about her character or if I just hate that she died and never got any help or closure or anything.
I feel torn because the novel rings true in many ways. We don’t know the motivations of people around us. People change in an instant. We don’t know the truth. We pick sides without really knowing the whole story. These are all things that happened in the novel. And I enjoy it when books don’t necessarily wrap up stories in one nice and neat bow, so I’m not sure why I’m vaguely frustrated by the story.
I think my frustrations are the same frustrations I have with young, terrible love. The adult in me wants to scream at Emily and slap Chris for not saying anything or doing anything and for not thinking about the consequences of his actions. It makes no sense! But I think The Pact is a love story in the same way that Romeo and Juliet is.. which is to say, it’s not, really. It’s a cautionary tale about the issues with young people, serious issues, and glorified view of suicide. It’s immature. I wanted the author to fix the problems or at least shine some light on the issues at the end and I think that’s why I was frustrated. She didn’t do those things. But here I am writing my review a week later and still struggling and thinking about the issues, which means that it must have been pretty thought provoking and moving.
I definitely recommend reading it. It was thought provoking, descriptive, and engrossing. I plan to read more of her books, as I enjoy her writing style.