Predictably prolific Picoult puts out page-turners


Do you wait impatiently for the next book from a favorite author? If Jodi Picoult happens to be your favorite, you usually don't have long to wait. She has faithfully delivered an average of a book each year since 1992 to her loyal readers.

Picoult's 17th, "House Rules," was released March 2 and is already on the New York Times Best-Sellers List. Two other novels, "Nineteen Minutes" (2007) and "Change of Heart" (2008) have also become best-sellers. Four of her books ("The Pact," "Plain Truth," "The Tenth Circle" and "My Sister's Keeper") have been made into movies.

Picoult's stories deal with emotional, controversial subjects and examine the extraordinary choices that can suddenly confront ordinary people. She addresses topics such as teen suicide, sexual abuse, domestic violence, abortion, religion and genetic manipulation. Her books usually feature multiple narrators, allowing the reader to experience conflicting points of view and the results of individual decisions -- decisions that often culminate in classic courtroom showdowns. She compels the reader make the decision of what is right or wrong. The social and moral issues in her novels lend themselves to great book club discussions.

I was first introduced to her work when our book club read her 11th novel, "My Sister's Keeper" (2004), which examines a biomedical controversy: Is it fair to create a life to save a life? Anna Fitzgerald was conceived as a genetically perfect donor for her older sister, Kate, who suffers from leukemia. After donating blood, bone marrow and other body parts, Anna rebels when asked to donate a kidney for her sister's benefit. "My Sister's Keeper" has been made into a feature film starring Cameron Diaz, Alec Baldwin and Abigail Breslin and was released in June 2009.

Another favorite of mine is "Nineteen Minutes" (2007), in which Picoult explores the teenage world of popularity, power, alienation and social mores. Peter Houghton sets off for school one day with a small arsenal in his backpack. Peter has been the victim of bullying his entire life. His lethal rampage takes only 19 minutes, but he kills nine students, one teacher and wounds many other people. As the survivors and their families struggle to make sense of the tragedy, the parents wonder just how much they know about their children.

Picoult's 15th novel, "Change of Heart" (2008), poses thought-provoking questions about capital punishment, organ donation, religion, redemption and justice. Eleven years after Shay Bourne was sentenced to death for killing young Elizabeth Neealon, her sister, Claire, needs a heart transplant. Attempting to make amends for his crime and achieve salvation, Shay volunteers to donate his heart.

Her most recent novel, "House Rules," (2010) explores the complex world of Emma Hunt, who is almost entirely focused on helping her 18-year-old son, Jacob, who has Asperger's syndrome, learn to communicate appropriately with his family and peers. Emma's life is complicated by the fact that her husband, Henry, left shortly after their younger son, Theo, was born. Fifteen-year-old Theo deeply resents the amount of time and money that his mother lavishes on his older brother. When Jacob is accused of murder, Emma's carefully crafted life comes apart, and all of the hallmarks of Jacob's diagnosis begin to make him look guilty.

The conflict, family drama, courtroom scenes and shocking twists in her books that create can't-put-down-reading also make good movie plots. "The Pact" (1998) tells the story of two teenagers who fall in love and sign a suicide pact. Only one member of the pact dies and both families must deal with the trial and aftermath. "Plain Truth," (1999) explores the life of the Amish in Pennsylvania. When a dead infant is found in an Amish barn, a controversy ensues in the local community and the life of one teenage girl. In "The Tenth Circle" (2006) 14-year-old Trixie Stone is raped by her boyfriend, and her parents and their marriage are tested by their desire to protect and avenge their daughter. All three were made-for-TV movies produced by the Lifetime a cable network.

Picoult was born in 1966 and raised in Long Island, N.Y. She studied creative writing with Mary Morris at Princeton. She held a series of jobs after graduation, including a stint as an eighth-grade English teacher, before entering Harvard to pursue a master's in education. She married Tim Van Leer, whom she had known at Princeton. She lives with her husband and three children in Hanover, N.H.SClB

In 2003 she was awarded the New England Bookseller Award for Fiction. Other books by Picoult include: "Harvesting the Heart" (1993), "Picture Perfect" (1995), "Mercy" (1996), "Keeping Faith" (1999), "Salem Falls" (2001), "Perfect Match" (2002), "Second Glance" (2003), "Vanishing Acts" (2005) and "Handle with Care" (2009).


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