Two Different Realities: On “Wish You Were Here” by Jodi Picoult

I hesitated to read this book for a while, because I wasn’t sure if I could handle a work of fiction concerning the pandemic. But, the author convinced me via Twitter to go ahead and give it a shot, and I haven’t regretted it.
We begin with Diana, a 29-year-old art dealer with the auction house Sotheby’s in New York, and her boyfriend, a resident at New York Presbyterian Hospital, as they debate going to the Galapagos Islands. She then goes on a trip herself, meeting people and having experiences even as her chosen locale, Isabela Island, is shut down to residents and tourists alike. In particular, she encounters a kind family who takes her in after her would-be hotel is shuttered, and forms tight relationships with a teen-aged girl and her father, both of whom speak English, and the kid’s grandma, who does not.
The descriptions are so vivid and clearly well-researched that, as with many things during this pandemic period, I feel like I am traveling vicariously. Even as she has these experiences, she learns from her boyfriend Finn what it is like as Covid ravages New York City and causes his job to become immeasurably harder. She also initially struggles in trying to fit in with this family, feeling at first a desire to return that is thwarted by the continued closure, she was due to return after two weeks but of course things went on beyond that point. This slowly shifts as she bonds with the teen-ager, Beatriz, in ways that Beatriz’s father is not able to achieve.
I found the story, and especially it’s first half, to be beautiful and heart-lightening as I still struggle with the real toll that Covid is taking on society. But, and no spoilers, I was shook by how things ultimately unfolded. It’s awesome though, and a fantastic piece of writing that lets one feel the devastation of loss.
In this story, Picoult is exploring the nature of Covid’s effects (in my opinion something like a warzone in that those who are most directly effected feel its punch acutely while the rest of us go on as normal,) and the nature of reality itself. Weighty subjects, but they are handled with just enough humor and ultimate truth to keep the reader from becoming too bogged down. Having read many of her novels, this is in my opinion the best. As I write this I do not know the ending, which is good as I know her endings are often unnerving in some way and can cause the story to linger in your head long after the last page. If you only take in one pandemic-related story, I would recommend this one.

Road to Home Ownership: A Dream (Possibly) Deferred

Happy New Year, y’all! We made it through 2021, with its particular trials and tribulations, and it is my greatest hope that we will finally round some kind of corner and see happier, more prosperous times ahead. It is time to get that journey started, whatever it will look like for you. I certainly no longer bother making specific resolutions, but I know what kind of work I need to do to get there.
As discussed a couple of entries ago, we had hoped to accomplish a major life marker and land ourselves a house. But… reality is already starting to set in. The dream has not ended, but it might be put off for a while.
Between our first viewing and my second, which happened on January 1, my wife and her sisters had looked at a few other town and single-family homes. The thing that happens every time though is that someone is already ready to bid, and they can pay top dollar immediately. We are, after all, in a buyer’s market where there are tons of buyers but few sellers. So people rush any property that becomes available.
So on this Saturday, we had located a home that was excellently priced, but with the understanding that the new owner would make some mostly cosmetic but needed fixes. It was located in Durham, north of downtown, and because we had already made an unsuccessful run to a property just off Roxboro Road, an unfortunately distressed section, we were a little nervous going in. This place was also fairly close to Roxboro Road, but not on the same end. The neighborhood as we drove in looked like a nice place to live, with homes that clearly go for the top end of the price scale and groceries within a half mile. Stores are to me an important metric of how others view the area and its money-generating potential, a sad truth but one that is consistent in this society.
As we pulled up to the place around 10 AM, other would-be buyers and their realtors arrived as well. Our realtor was about 20 minutes late, so my wife and her sister cased the outside of the house, noting obvious issues that would need working on such as the deck and other parts made of wood. Shortly thereafter, we stepped inside.
First, I was blown away by the Southern-style front porch, a wooden structure that would make one feel great sitting on a rocking chair and reading way back in that quiet. (And that was sort of the only possible issue, it was a good ways back from the main thoroughfare which would make me wonder about the ease of getting transportation. I’m pretty sure that it could have been done though, as we were within a four-minute drive of the nearest bus stop).
Immediately past the front door and to the left is the Master bedroom. It was about the size of our current Master, which is to say not super large but big enough to fit our king-sized bed and two nightstands. It also contained a bathroom. My wife loves the idea of having that room on the bottom floor.
From there, we strolled through the ample living room, which contained a fireplace, and kitchen and up the stairs to the three rooms above. The only thing that would really need fixing other than said issues with the wood was the carpet, which was very deep but probably not that great looking. In our dreams at least, we would work on these projects, including a repainting of the walls, over time as we enjoyed living in this luxurious space.
Outdoors, there is a spacious two-car garage and the deck, which was rotting in some places. I loved again that one didn’t hear the constant roar of AC as we do in our current spot, or traffic as one might in many others. In short, this place was absolutely ideal for both of us given what we are really seeking in a home. And it’s a rare place these days that has character, not just feeling “cookie-cutter”.
But alas, it was not meant to be. Our realtor poured water on our dream as soon as we rolled out in the car, saying that if we were to acquire it, we would have to pay to repair the deck prior to closing as required by our loan. More than that though, and not surprising, the place had pretty much already been snapped up by a construction-type company that will renovate it and sell at a significant profit. Ah well, such is things with this. I guess what I will try and do now, especially as travel is largely off the table anyway, is to just try and keep the ol’ bank account rising and try to be prepared for all of what one must do to acquire a place. This experience has definitely been… educational. We shall see.