Picoult, Jodi 1966–

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Picoult, Jodi 1966–

PERSONAL:

Surname is pronounced "Pee-koe"; born May 19, 1966, in New York, NY; daughter of Myron Michel (a securities analyst) and Jane Ellen (a nursery school director) Picoult; married Timothy Warren van Leer (a technical sales representative), November 18, 1989; children: Kyle Cameron, Jacob Matthew, Samantha Grace. Education: Princeton University, B.A., 1987; Harvard University, M.Ed., 1990. Hobbies and other interests: Baking, kayaking, reading.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Etna, NH. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Allyn & Bacon, Inc., Newton, MA, developmental editor, 1987-88; junior high school teacher of English and creative writing in Concord and Natick, MA, 1989-91; freelance writer, 1991—.

AWARDS, HONORS:

New England Book Award Winner for Fiction, New England Booksellers Association, 2003, for body of work; Best Mainstream Fiction Novel designation, Romance Writers of America, 2003, for Second Glance, and a lifetime achievement award; Top Ten Women's Fiction listee, Booklist, 2005, Alex Award, 2005, and Abraham Lincoln Award for YA fiction in Illinois, all for My Sister's Keeper; Book Browse Diamond Award for novel of the year; "Fearless Fiction" Award, Cosmopolitan magazine, 2007; Author of the Year in the United Kingdom, Waterstone; Vermont Green Mountain Book Award.

WRITINGS:

NOVELS

Songs of the Humpback Whale, Faber & Faber (London, England), 1992.

Harvesting the Heart, Viking (New York, NY), 1994.

Picture Perfect, Putnam (New York, NY), 1995.

Mercy, Putnam (New York, NY), 1996.

The Pact: A Love Story, Morrow (New York, NY), 1998.

Keeping Faith, Morrow (New York, NY), 1999.

Plain Truth, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2000.

Salem Falls, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2001.

Perfect Match, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2002.

Second Glance, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2003.

My Sister's Keeper, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2004.

Vanishing Acts, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2005.

The Tenth Circle, illustrated by Dustin Weaver, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2006.

(Author of introduction) S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 2006.

Nineteen Minutes, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2007.

Change of Heart: A Novel, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2008.

OTHER

(With Terry Dodson and Drew Johnson) Wonder Woman: Love and Murder (comic collection), DC Comics, 2007.

Also author of five issues of Wonder Woman comic books.

ADAPTATIONS:

Picoult's novels The Pact and Plain Truth were adapted for television and aired on the Lifetime network in 2002 and 2004, respectively. New Line Cinema adapted My Sister's Keeper for a film starring Cameron Diaz, Elle Fanning, and Dakota Fanning.

SIDELIGHTS:

Since her first success with Songs of the Humpback Whale in 1992, novelist Jodi Picoult has produced many other books in quick succession, often working on two books simultaneously. While she did tell an interviewer for the Allen-Unwin Web site that "I moonlight as a writer. My daylight hours are spent with my three children," her writing time has become more constant since her husband chose to be a stay-at-home dad. Picoult's themes center on women's issues, family, and relationships. According to Donna Seaman in Booklist, the author is "a writer of high energy and conviction."

Picoult's second work, Harvesting the Heart, concerns Paige O'Toole, an Irish Catholic with some artistic talent. The product of an unhappy childhood and adolescence, Paige leaves home after high school and lands a job at a diner where she sketches customers. There she meets her future husband, the egocentric Nicholas Prescott, whom she eventually puts through medical school after his parents disown him. After their first child is born, Paige becomes frustrated with the pressures of motherhood and increasingly estranged from the busy Nicholas. At the end of her patience, she decides to leave her family and seek her own mother, who left her when Paige was only five. Paige's heart-wrenching decision leads her to deal with her own identity as she discovers she is not like her irresponsible mother. A happy ending ensues, with Paige returning to her family and Nicholas learning to take on more family responsibilities. A Kirkus Reviews contributor found that the book had "some good writing, but not enough to sustain a concept-driven and rather old-fashioned story."

After producing Harvesting the Heart, Picoult wrote Picture Perfect, a study of wife abuse, and Mercy, a story dealing with euthanasia. Her 1998 novel, The Pact: A Love Story, is a legal thriller set in a New Hampshire town. The novel concerns the Hartes and the Golds, neighbors and close friends. Their teenaged children, Chris and Emily, who grew up almost as brother and sister, become romantically involved and enter into a suicide pact. However, Chris survives and is charged with murder. After an investigation, he is jailed, and the friendship between the two families dissolves. According to a Kirkus Reviews contributor, the trial scenes in The Pact are "powerful," and the novel itself is "an affecting study of obsession, loss, and some of the more wrenching varieties of guilt." Seaman, writing again for Booklist, dubbed Picoult's book "a finely honed, commanding, and cathartic drama."

The author's 1999 novel, Keeping Faith, also concerns characters in a small town struggling to maintain their concepts of honesty and faith. The protagonist, Mariah White, discovers that her husband has been unfaithful and subsequently sinks into depression. Her seven-year-old daughter, Faith, is upset by her mother's behavior and begins conversing with an imaginary friend, as well as acting as if she has newfound religious powers. Their lives enter a state of increasing upheaval as more and more of the faithful and the curious come to partake of Faith's supposed healing powers. Faith's father sues for custody of the girl, and an emotional court scene ensues. Margaret Flanagan, writing in Booklist, called the novel "a mesmerizing morality play."

Picoult's novel Plain Truth is set in the Pennsylvania Amish country. When a dead infant is discovered in the barn of an Amish farmer, a police investigation suggests that the mother is an eighteen-year-old Amish girl and that the baby did not die of natural causes. Although the teen denies responsibility, she is arrested and charged with murder. She is defended by a Philadelphia attorney, Ellie Hathaway, who soon clashes both with the will of her client and with the cultural values of Amish society. In the process of building her client's difficult defense, Ellie discovers more and more about her own inner life and personal values, while also learning to appreciate the values of the "plain people." Many reviewers praised the novel's suspenseful plot, its characterization, and its skillful portrait of Amish culture. Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service contributor Linda DuVal, for instance, commented that in Plain Truth Picoult writes with "clarity" and "depicts a simple, yet deceptively complex, society of people who share a sense of compassion and the unshakable belief in the goodness of their fellow men and women."

Salem Falls features St. Bride, a teacher who spent eight months in jail because of an affair with an underage student. Although he was innocent of the crime, St. Bride is a marked man and moves to Salem Falls, where he works as a dishwasher and begins an affair with the diner's owner, which is subsequently threatened when townspeople learn of his past. A Publishers Weekly contributor called the novel "genuinely suspenseful and at times remarkably original." Perfect Match deals with child abuse and an assistant district attorney who prosecutes such cases but fails to see signs of abuse in her own child. The title refers to DNA testing to find the abuser. In Library Journal Diana McRae noted that the novel's "memorable visual images and evocative language [make] Perfect Match a success." McRae's review was actually focused on Second Glance, which the critic called equally strong. In Second Glance Ross Wakemen has been swindled by fake ghost hunters. They claim they can help him find his lost love, who died in a car crash. Eventually, Ross moves to Vermont, becomes involved in the tearing down of an old house that may be haunted, and ultimately helps solve a decades-old mystery. Kristine Huntley wrote in Booklist that the author "mixes shocking fact and compelling fiction to produce a mesmerizing tale of love and second chances."

In My Sister's Keeper Picoult uses her characters to explore the ramifications of cloning and gene replacement therapy, asking whether birthing one child to save the life of another child makes one a good mother—or a very bad one. A Kirkus Reviews critic declared that the novelist "vividly evokes the physical and psychic toll a desperately sick child imposes on a family, even a close and loving one." Noting that there are "no easy outcomes in a tale about individual autonomy clashing with a sibling's right to life," the reviewer explained that "Picoult thwarts our expectations in unexpected ways" and dubbed My Sister's Keeper "a telling portrait" of a modern American family under stress.

Commenting on Picoult's 2005 novel, Vanishing Acts, a Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote: "As usual, Picoult … spins a terrifically suspenseful tale by developing just the right human-interest elements to make a workable story." The story revolves around Delia Hopkins, who conducts search-and-rescue missions with her bloodhound, Greta. However, Delia suddenly discovers that she is in fact a missing person when her father is arrested for kidnapping. It turns out that her father had taken her from a drunken woman in Arizona when Delia was only four years old. The novel follows Delia as the case is slowly fleshed out and it is discovered that she is at least partially a Hopi Indian. Karen Karbo, writing in Entertainment Weekly, noted the novel's "multiple narrators … who cunningly reflect different versions of the truth." "Picoult weaves together plot and characterization in a landscape that is fleshed out in rich, journalistic detail," concluded a Publishers Weekly contributor.

In The Tenth Circle, which refers to one of Dante's circles of hell, Picoult tells the story of comic artist Daniel Stone who writes a graphic novel that parallels the real-life story of his teenage daughter, Trixie, who was raped by Jason Underhill while on a date with the teenager. To make his life even more of a hell, Daniel also learns of his wife's affair the same night as his daughter is raped. In the novel, Daniel's artwork from his graphic novel is illustrated by Dustin Weaver. "Picoult had this reader up until the very end of this fast-paced tale," wrote Bette-Lee Fox in the Library Journal. Booklist contributor Kristine Huntley noted that the "sad, complex novel should appeal to the many readers who have enjoyed her previous works."

The author turns to a troubling modern phenomenon in Nineteen Minutes, which Entertainment Weekly contributor Tina Jordan called "expertly crafted, thought-provoking, and compelling." The novel revolves around a high school shooting carried out by alienated teenager Peter Houghton. Bullied in school, Peter spends much of his spare time playing violent games on his computer and ultimately takes a gun to school and kills ten people. As Peter's story is told in flashbacks, the novel focuses on Judge Alex Cormier and his daughter, another a troubled child who witnessed the shootings. Noting that the author "knows how to hook" the reader, Jocelyn McClurg commented in USA Today that the novel's "very ordinariness gives it surprising power." Writing in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jackie Loohauis reported that "Picoult's questions have all been asked before, but never with such skill, sensitivity and depth in novel form."

Picoult once noted of her work: "I am particularly concerned with what constitutes the truth—how well we think we know the people we love and the lives we live. I also write about the intricacies of family ties and connections, which often unearth questions that have no easy answers."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, April 1, 1998, Donna Seaman, review of The Pact: A Love Story; May 15, 1999, Margaret Flanagan, review of Keeping Faith; January 1, 2001, Kristine Huntley, review of Salem Falls, p. 872; December 15, 2002, Kristine Huntley, review of Second Glance, p. 708; January 1, 2004, Kristine Huntley, review of My Sister's Keeper; April 1, 2005, Gillian Engberg, "The Alex Awards, 2005," p. 1355; December 1, 2005, Kristine Huntley, review of The Tenth Circle, p. 7; May 1, 2006, Stephanie Zvirin, "The Illinois School Library Media Association Has Posted Winners of Two Students' Choice Awards," p. 90.

Bookseller, June 17, 2005, reviews of Vanishing Acts and Perfect Match, p. 12; April 28, 2006, Horace Bent, "Jodi Gets Meaty," p. 50; July 14, 2006, "Picoult to Pen Wonder Woman," p. 10; April 13, 2007, "Picoult: Nineteen Minutes," p. 10.

Book World, March 27, 2005, Ingrid Hill, review of Vanishing Acts, p. 6; March 25, 2007, Frances Taliaferro, review of Nineteen Minutes, p. 7.

Bulletin with Newsweek, May 31, 2005, Sally Blakeney, review of Vanishing Acts, p. 69.

Chicago Tribune Books, March 25, 2007, Nahal Toosi, review of Nineteen Minutes, p. 9.

Entertainment Weekly, March 4, 2005, Karen Karbo, review of Vanishing Acts, p. 79; March 10, 2006, Whitney Pastorek, review of The Tenth Circle, p. 71; March 9, 2007, Tina Jordan, review of Nineteen Minutes, p. 113; April 13, 2007, "The Charts," brief discussion of Nineteen Minutes, p. 79.

Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO), March 22, 2007, "Novelist Writing for ‘Wonder Woman.’"

Glamour, June, 2002, Sara Nelson, review of Perfect Match, p. 178.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1993, review of Harvesting the Heart; March 15, 1998, review of The Pact; April 15, 2002, review of Perfect Match, p. 520; January 1, 2003, review of Second Glance, p. 20; January 15, 2004, review of My Sister's Keeper; January 1, 2005, review of Vanishing Acts, p. 16.

Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, June 15, 2000, Linda DuVal, review of Plain Truth, p. K239.

Library Journal, May 1, 2002, Nancy Pear, review of Perfect Match, p. 135; February 15, 2003, Diana McRae, review of Second Glance, p. 170; March 15, 2004, Kim Uden Rutter, review of My Sister's Keeper; January 1, 2006, Bette-Lee Fox, review of The Tenth Circle, p. 101; January 1, 2007, Marika Zemke, review of Nineteen Minutes, p. 97.

Marie Claire, March, 2007, Colleen Oakley, "Books: Author Q&A: Jodi Picoult, about Her Novel Nineteen Minutes," p. 80.

MBR Bookwatch, March, 2005, Harriet Klausner, review of Vanishing Acts.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 28, 2007, Jackie Loohauis, review of Nineteen Minutes.

Ms., spring, 2007, Jessica Stites, review of Nineteen Minutes, p. 75.

MS Best Books, April 23, 2004, "Hodder Signs US Bestseller Jodi Picoult for UK Market."

New York Times, February 24, 2005, Janet Maslin, review of Vanishing Acts; July 6, 2006, George Gustines, "Best-Selling Author Writes for ‘Wonder Woman,’" p. E2; March 16, 2007, Janet Maslin, "From This Moment On: After the Shooting Is Over," review of Nineteen Minutes, p. E34.

People, June 10, 2002, review of Perfect Match, p. 48; March 21, 2005, Lisa Kay Greissinger, review of Vanishing Acts, p. 59.

Publishers Weekly, February 19, 2001, review of Salem Falls, p. 68; May 6, 2002, review of Perfect Match p. 35; March 31, 2003, Hilary S. Kayle, "Picoult's Haunting Tale," interview with the author, p. 43; February 16, 2004, review of My Sister's Keeper; February 7, 2005, review of Vanishing Acts, p. 43; February 14, 2005, "From Quiche to Corvette Steve: From a Safe Haven, Jodi Picoult Explores the Dark Side," interview with the author, p. 22; December 5, 2005, review of The Tenth Circle, p. 27; January 1, 2007, review of Nineteen Minutes, p. 31.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), August 18, 2002, review of Salem Falls, p. 6; February 16, 2003, review of Perfect Match, p. 2.

UPI NewsTrack, July 6, 2006, "Best-Selling Author Writes ‘Wonder Woman.’"

USA Today, April 11, 2006, Deirde Donahue, "Picoult Draws Readers into Her ‘Circle’ of Ideas, p. D1, and "Curiosity Produces a Novel Every 9 Months," p. 5D; March 6, 2007, Jocelyn McClurg, review of Nineteen Minutes, p. D7; March 15, 2007, Bob Minzesheimer, Jocelyn McClurg, and Carol Memmott, "Book Buzz," p. D4.

ONLINE

Allen-Unwin Web site, http://www.allen-unwin.com/ (October 2, 2000), interview with Picoult.

Book Reporter,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (April 9, 2004), interview with author; (March 9, 2007), "Author Talk," interview with author.

International Movie Database,http://imdb.com/ (September 19, 2007), information on author's film work.

Jodi Picoult Home Page,http://www.jodipicoult.com (August 23, 2004).