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"Nineteen Minutes" by Jodi Picoult

Nineteen minutes—that’s all it took for a boy to shoot his way through his small-town high school, kill one teacher and ten students and wound many more. It’s the length of time it took for the police to be called, siren their way to the school and race through the scared, wounded and dead before apprehending the shooter. That’s all it took to change some lives forever.

As we are lead through the aftermath of the tragedy and through the trial from the perspective of several key people, the author takes us back to the beginnings. What would possess a teenager to wreak such carnage? Why did he make a special note to spare one girl?

At the end of her acknowledgements, Picoult writes: “...to all the thousands of kids out there who are a little bit different, a little bit scared, a little bit unpopular: this one’s for you.” Perhaps it’s because I was one of those thousands that this book resonated so clearly in me. It’s a story that discusses what we do to be accepted and what we do when we’re rejected—two themes predominant in my own story. I’ve always been different. I wasn’t always aware of how different I was and yet I knew I was. Still am, I think.

I think of my next sister younger than me. She had even more strikes against her with the scar that covered half her face. I miss her so much these days, yet I may have been the one who was cruellest to her—not because of her scar but because I wasn’t mature enough to know how else to enforce rules when I was left in charge. Neither of us charged through our school with a gun but in the end, she took her own life and I’ve been close to it at times.

These days, I defend others because in doing so, I defend myself. I help others because I’ve been in need of help. I’ve chosen to not mistreat others because I’ve been mistreated. The one exception is my husband Tom. For some reason, I have difficulty extending these kindnesses to him.

After I thought through some of these connections between the book and myself, I began to feel sick and a big knot formed in my abdomen. These are obviously issues I have yet to work out completely in my own life. Judi Picoult is an excellent writer who examines current-day ethics in an honest, forthright and clarifying manner and helps her readers see a situation from many sides. She’s good reading.

The one caveat about her books is that she manages to insert two or three sex scenes in each one. Normally I won’t touch such books—they’re too much of a temptation for me—but she is very circumspect (I want to say “chaste” but that’s a contradiction) in the ways she writes these and isn’t given to bawdy details or erotica so I haven’t found them to be a problem yet.

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About the Author

DEBBIE HAUGHLAND CHAN
WINNIPEG, MANITOBA, CANADA

I'm married (35 years in December 2008) with four grown sons. I love my city (Winnipeg) and my country (Canada) and promote them both to whoever will listen. God (through Jesus Christ) is the biggest part of my life. I am learning to let him take control of all areas--though I do better at this some times more than others.

I have written a book that's recently been published about part of my journey with God. In it I tell how God confronted me with the same-sex attraction issues I've struggled with all my adult life and how he led me through them to a deeper and more meaningful relationship with him. God is amazing—his forgiveness, his love, his movement in our lives when we allow him and so much more. I suspect God will never run out of things to teach me or ways to make me grow and that’s a good thing (though often very painful).

I suppose I can say that what gives me the greatest pleasure in life is telling others about…

Memories of Mikael Vincent Tien Doe Chan

Reviews of Searching for Love

If you have read the book, I would love to hear your thoughts on it. You may e-mail me at debbiehaughland@gmail.com or post them in the comments section below.

A Real Testimony
I finished your book. A real testimony to what God does for us.
Leona March 3, 2009
I Had Tears Coming

I sat down to read it about a week later and ended up finishing it the same night. At first I admit I was a little bored and thought that the whole book was about a battle all in your mind, but as I continued reading this creeping thought came over me of a different...struggle in my own life, that I would never in my right mind have shared with anyone accept maybe God. I've mentioned your book to a few people because it stirs up age-old controversies that I have myself argued and wondered about, namely about whether or not homosexuality can be cured or just managed like alcoholism--you just have to stay away from temptation. I noticed at the end of your book that your struggle story …