“The Book of Two Ways” is a journey through the life of Dawn McDowell. Her husband, Brian, is a theoretical physicist who believes in parallel universes. Dawn had once planned to be a researcher studying the Ancient Egyptians and their journey into their alternate worlds. Now, she assists people who pass into other universes of their own; their deaths are her job. She is a wife, a mother, and a doula, one gives aid and comfort, not medical care, to individuals and families as they face death.
The characters are complex and compelling; the plot is filled with tales both of today and of Ancient Egypt. The story unfolds through Dawn’s first person narrative and is driven by her thoughts and conversations; she talks to others, talks to herself, and talks directly to readers. She shares her conflicts, her joys, and her tragedies. Dawn takes readers back and forth in time, through her two realities, previous and present, coexisting and intermingled, yet separate and conflicting. She looks back on her past, evaluates her present, and anticipates her future. Events have split her in half, into “Water” in Boston and “Land” in Egypt. These alternating universes, these two stories, are all part of the same, yet divided, person. She does not know how to put herself back together, how she can choose one at the expense of the other.
“The Book of Two Ways” is a compelling journey with drama and conflict. Dawn’s world implodes; she must resolve a plane crash and startling actions from the past that complicate her present. The book ends with a startling twist that may not please everyone. I was given a copy of “The Book of Two Ways” by Jodi Picoult, Random House, and Ballantine Books. The ending, well, I am starting to accept it.