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If you are someone who dislikes Picoult’s books, then just think about how much courage it takes to open all the Pandora’s Boxes that are in ‘My Sister’s Keeper.’ (2004).
A child is genetically engineered to be a perfect donor match for her sister, who has a rare form of leukaemia. For thirteen years she has kept her sister alive through a series of agonising medical interventions. Her mother is outraged when she rebels at the thought of donating a kidney – and sues her parents for the rights to her own body.
The book is a devastating exploration of one-sided parental love, and the agony of children. There’s no such thing as a life without pain – but this book, like so much of Picoult’s writing, smacks the reader in the face.
About as far from anodyne as it’s possible to get.
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Blackhurst’s subjects are as devastating as Picoult’s, and she is equally able to write of what we would prefer not to think about.
Unlike Picoult, she doesn’t exploit moral dilemmas: and her stories are told without seeking any form of moral resolution.
Recommended Novel: ‘How I Lost You’ (2014)
A woman is told that she killed her twelve-week-old son. She remembers nothing, and is sent to a psychiatric institution. Now she is due to be released, still convinced that she is a killer… didn’t they tell her she was?
But on the outside, memory begins to return… small hints that begin to convince her that maybe – just maybe – someone had been lying all along.
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Like Picoult, Diane Chamberlain specialises in confronting, head on, the things we would rather not witness. Her subjects are often disturbing, and she is not afraid of unashamed emotion.
Unlike Picoult, she creates characters who have a ‘backstory’ rather than appearing to exist in the moment of drama found in each novel. Her style is lighter than Picoult’s and she presents no answers to the moral dilemmas her characters face.
Recommended Novel: ‘Pretending To Dance’ (2015)
A couple plan to adopt a baby. But in the process secrets which Molly has hidden for years must be brought into the open.
She ran away to escape a tragic home life which forced her to build a new identity. Now about to achieve her dream of motherhood, she must face her past and rediscover the girl she used to be… at the risk of losing everything she loves.
The book is written from two perspectives: the teenage Molly and the adult she now is. It is a heart-rending depiction of love and loss, and Chamberlain captures beautifully the unique perspective of a fourteen-year-old dealing with emotions which are too adult for her to handle.
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Gillian is a psychological detective, and creates characters on the point of meltdown.
Her plot lines are so tightly woven that it is impossible to work out what happened – who the bad guy is, if any – until the last moment.
Like Picoult, she has her detractors for being – put simply – unrelentingly dramatic and negative. But her stories never pretend to be light and fluffy. They are simply gripping.
Her style is very different to Picoult’s in that she is not arguing from any particular moral perspective: in fact, the dilemmas in her novels are not moral or emotional at all.Recommended Novel: ‘Gone Girl’ (2012)
A man with a seemingly perfect wife comes home to find that she has disappeared. He is accused of killing her and disposing of her body – and all signs point to him.
Then he begins to receive strange messages which only he can recognise are from her.
As he is slowly destroyed by the accusation of murder, he realises that their entire life was a lie.
These authors who write powerful emotional dramas.
They express feelings which are painful – but they don’t concentrate on gritty subjects. It’s love, not social ethics, which drive them.
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Claire Mackintosh writes fast-paced emotional thrillers with plot lines which will endlessly take you by surprise. Her point of view is strong, so that her characters are three-dimensional and their emotions are powerfully portrayed.
Unlike Picoult, her stories lean toward solving mysteries rather than dealing with the fall-out from social problems.Recommended Novel: ‘I Let You Go’ (2015)
In a single moment, Jenna loses everything she loves most. She is told it is an unavoidable tragedy, but secretly suspects that she could have prevented it.
She escapes to live in a remote cottage, hoping to heal, but just as she begins to feel there may be happiness for her in the future, her past finds her – and threatens to destroy her.
Hughes writes beautifully descriptive novels about the various forms love can take, the problems it can bring – and how it can impact on us if it goes wrong.
She conveys time and place realistically, with a wealth of minor historical detail.Like Picoult, she has a knack of evoking deep emotion and pulls no punches in wringing emotions out of the reader.
Unlike Picoult, who has an interest in major ethical questions and people’s reactions to them, Hughes concentrates on the feelings between her characters.
Recommended Novel: ‘The Letter’ (2015)
In the mid 1970s Tina, an unhappily married woman, finds a letter in a suit in a charity shop. It links her to the story of Chrissie, who was young in the 1940s.
Stepping from one decade to another, the similarities in their lives unfold, while the problems they are having to deal with continue.
The constraints of the eras they live in have a direct bearing on how they respond, and how they can escape – and as the story progresses, their personalities will affect the outcome each of them hopes for.
Writers like Jodi Picoult not only tell a story: in a way, they enable us to feel, by describing emotions which we have never experienced. These are books you can lose yourself in – and that is the essence of storytelling.
Are you ready to plumb the emotional depths? Please leave a comment below.
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