We’ve already seen several non-fiction accounts published in 2020-2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic spread. But now some of our favorite fiction writers are using it as the backdrop for their stories. Here are two I’ve read recently:
The Sentence by Louise Erdrich appeals to us booklovers, as it’s a story set in a Minneapolis bookstore. The narration begins in 2019 with its main character, Tookie, newly released from a ten-year prison sentence and working in the bookstore. The story turns into a mystery when a longstanding customer dies on All-Souls Day 2019, and her spirit seems to continue haunting her favorite areas of the shop. While weaving a journey through the clues to this curious mystery, Erdrich invokes the familiar signs of COVID-19 times to paint a picture that includes empty grocery shelves, food hoarding, and lots of baking. The bookstore expands its online presence and starts curbside pickup and deliveries to local customers. Tookie’s step-daughter and family move in with her and her husband so that they can quarantine together and care for her newborn grandchild. Erdrich provides her typically sensitive deep-dive into these Native-American characters and their urban culture and tells a story that is full of great twists and turns. I’ve read many of her books, multiple times, and this one did not disappoint.
Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult is a full-blown pandemic saga set in New York City. The main character, Diana, works for Sotheby’s as an associate art specialist. Her partner Finn is a medical resident at New York-Presbyterian hospital. The couple has booked a long-awaited vacation in the Galapagos when the early stages of COVID cases start to appear. Finn sees that he will be working nonstop at the hospital and must cancel his vacation but convinces Diana to go on this adventure without him. As soon as she lands in the airport and takes the ferry to her destination, she realizes she is now trapped, as the island is quarantined for an unknown amount of time.
Diana resolves herself to this situation and meets some interesting residents. However, Internet connections are very sparse on the island, and she has trouble reaching Finn. Eventually she forms some new relationships and begins to question her previous life that had been so completely planned and secure up to this point. A shocking twist in the middle of the book forces her to rethink everything she thought was real in her life.
This was my first Picoult book and I am looking forward to enjoying more of her work. Of course, book of these great selections are available through the York County Libraries and Dillsburg Area Public Library.