The Pact: A Love Story

The Pact: A Love Story

4.3 2088
by Jodi Picoult

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For eighteen years the Hartes and the Golds have lived next door to each other, sharing everything from Chinese food to chicken pox to carpool duty - they've grown so close it seems they have always been a part of each other's lives. Parents and children alike have been best friends - so it's no surprise that in high school Chris and Emily's friendship blossoms…  See more details below


For eighteen years the Hartes and the Golds have lived next door to each other, sharing everything from Chinese food to chicken pox to carpool duty - they've grown so close it seems they have always been a part of each other's lives. Parents and children alike have been best friends - so it's no surprise that in high school Chris and Emily's friendship blossoms into something more. They've been soul mates since they were born.

So when midnight calls from the hospital come in, no one is ready for the appalling truth: Emily is dead at seventeen from a gunshot wound to the head. There's a single unspent bullet in the gun that Chris took from his father's cabinet - a bullet that Chris tells police he intended for himself. But a local detective has doubts about the suicide pact that Chris has described. As its chapters unfold, alternating between an idyllic past and an unthinkable present, "The Pact" paints an indelible portrait of families in anguish... culminating in an astonishingly suspenseful courtroom drama as Chris finds himself on trial for murder.

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Editorial Reviews

Megan Harlan
Picoult suggests the subtle ways in which parents can place dangerous pressures on their children.
The New York Times Book Review
People Magazine
Engrossing...Picoult's deft touch makes this her breakout novel.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Teenage suicide is the provocative topic that Picoult plumbs, with mixed results, in her fifth novel. Popular high-school swimming star Chris Harte and talented artist Em Gold bonded as infants; their parents have been next-door neighbors and best friends for 18 years. When they fall in love, everyone is ecstatic. Everyone, it turns out, except for Em, who finds that sex with Chris feels almost incestuous. Her emotional turmoil, compounded by pregnancy, which she keeps secret, leads to depression, despair and a desire for suicide, and she insists that Chris prove his love by pulling the trigger. The gun is fired in the first paragraph, and so the book opens with a jolt of adrenaline. But Picoult stumbles in delineating both sets of parents' responses to the tragedy. Unconvincing behavior and dialogue inappropriate to the situation (plus, most importantly, the fact that the parents fail to discuss crucial topics) never touch the essence of bereavement and thus destroy credibility. Picoult redeems herself in flashbacks that reveal the two marital relationships and the personalities of both couples; and she sensitively explores the question of how well parents can ever know their children. After Chris is accused of murder and jailed, the narrative acquires impressive authenticity and suspense, with even the minor characters evoked with Picoult's keen eye for telling detail. The courtroom scenes (reminiscent of Picoult's 1996 novel, "Mercy"), are taut and well paced. Readers may remain unconvinced, however, that an intelligent young man like Chris would not have sought some help rather than respond to his lover's desperate request.
Kirkus Reviews
In this brooding fourth novel, Picoult (Picture Perfect) creates an affecting study of obsession, loss, and some of the more wrenching varieties of guilt. It all begins with a failed suicide pact between two teenagers: Emily Gold dies, but the precise motivations behind her death remain obscure. And who pulled the trigger? Her boyfriend Chris Harte, who survives because of having fainted, apparently, before he could kill himself, seems unwilling to offer an explanation. Zipping back and forth through time, the story traces the growth of the long, complex relationship between the kids. When the two families first settle down next to each other, the Hartes and Golds seem meant for each other: Both families are upper-class New Englanders; both the husbands are doctors; both the wives are pregnant, and so in a sense the pairing of Chris and Emily takes place even before their birth. Eventually, they sleep in the same bassinet, go on to develop their own secret language, accompany each other everywhere and, when they become adolescents, are inevitably drawn into a fervid romance. While it seems inconceivable that Chris could have killed Emily, a preponderance of forensic evidence suggests that it just may be. On his 18th birthday, Chris is hauled off to jail and the perfect harmony between the families instantly dissolves. Melanie Gold, unable to accept the notion that her perfect daughter could have been suicidal, focuses her anger on the murderer next door, and, emotionally, James Harte disinherits his son, who's now a liability to the doctor's prestigious career. Chris himself, saddled with a hot-shot lawyer more interested in building a case than in hearing the truth, sinks intodespair. The trial scenes, alternating rapid-fire testimony with flashbacks to the actual suicide, are particularly powerful, and what Chris finally says when he takes the stand comes, thanks to Picoult's skill, as a considerable surprise. A moving story, mingling elements of mystery with sensitive exploration of a tragic subject.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.02(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Pact
A Love Story

Chapter One


November 1997

There was nothing left to say.

He covered her body with his, and as she put her arms around him she could picture him in all his incarnations: age five, and still blond; age eleven, sprouting; age thirteen, with the hands of a man. The moon rolled, sloe-eyed in the night sky; and she breathed in the scent of his skin. "I love you," she said.

He kissed her so gently she wondered if she had imagined it. She pulled back slightly, to look into his eyes.

And then there was a shot.

Although there had never been a standing reservation made, the rear corner table of the Happy Family Chinese restaurant was always saved on Friday nights for the Hartes and the Golds, who had been coming there for as long as anyone could remember. Years ago, they had brought the children, littering the crowded nook with high chairs and diaper bags until it was nearly impossible for the waiters to maneuver the steaming platters of food onto the table. Now, it was just the four of them, blustering in one by one at six o'clock and gravitating close as if, together, they exerted some kind of magnetic pull.

James Harte had been first to arrive. He'd been operating that afternoon and had finished surprisingly early. He picked up the chopsticks in front of him, slipped them from their paper packet, and cradled them between his fingers like surgical instruments.

"Hi," Melanie Gold said, suddenly across from him. "I guess I'm early."

"No," James answered. "Everyone else is late."

"Really?" She shrugged out of her coat and balled itup beside her. "I was hoping I was early. I don't think I've ever been early."

"You know," James said, considering, "I don't think you ever have."

They were linked by the one thing they had in common—Augusta Harte—but Gus had not yet arrived. So they sat in the companionable awkwardness caused by knowing extremely private things about each other that had never been directly confided, but rather blurted by Gus Harte to her husband in bed or to Melanie over a cup of coffee. James cleared his throat and flipped the chopsticks around his fingers with dexterity. "What do you think?" he asked, smiling at Melanie. "Should I give it all up? Become a drummer?"

Melanie flushed, as she always did when she was put on the spot. After years of sitting with a reference desk wrapped around her waist like a hoop skirt, concrete answers came easily to her; nonchalance didn't. If James had asked, "What is the current population of Addis Ababa?" or "Can you tell me the actual chemicals in a photographic fixing bath?" she'd never have blushed, because the answers would never have offended him. But this drummer question? What exactly was he looking for?

"You'd hate it," Melanie said, trying to sound flippant. "You'd have to grow your hair long and get a nipple ring or something like that."

"Do I want to know why you're talking about nipple rings?" Michael Gold said, approaching the table. He leaned down and touched his wife's shoulder, which passed for an embrace after so many years of marriage.

"Don't get your hopes up," Melanie said. "James wants one, not me."

Michael laughed. "I think that's automatic grounds for losing your board certification."

"Why?" James frowned. "Remember that Nobel laureate we met on the cruise to Alaska last summer? He had a hoop through his eyebrow."

"Exactly," Michael said. "You don't have to have board certification to create a poem entirely out of curse words." He shook out his napkin and settled it in his lap. "Where's Gus?"

James checked his watch. He lived by it; Gus didn't wear one at all. It drove him crazy. "I think she was taking Kate to a friend's for a sleepover."

"Did you order yet?" Michael asked.

"Gus orders," James said, an excuse. Gus was usually there first, and as in all other things, Gus was the one who kept the meal running smoothly.

As if her husband had invoked her, Augusta Harte rushed through the door of the Chinese restaurant. "God, I'm late," she said, unbuttoning her coat with one hand. "You cannot imagine the day I've had." The other three leaned forward, expecting one of her infamous stories, but instead Gus waved over a waiter. "The usual," she said, smiling brightly.

The usual? Melanie, Michael, and James looked at each other. Was it that easy?

Gus was a professional waiter, not the kind who carried food to tables, but the one who sacrificed time so that someone else would not have to. Busy New Englanders solicited her business, Other People's Time, when they didn't want to wait in line at the Motor Vehicles Division, or sit around all day for the cable TV repairman. She began to tame her curly red hair. "First," she said, an elastic band clamped between her teeth, "I spent the morning at the Motor Vehicles Division, which is awful under the best of circumstances." She bravely attempted a ponytail, something like leashing a current of electricity, and glanced up. "So I'm the next one in line—you know, just in front of that little window—and the clerk, swear to God, has a heart attack. Just dies on the floor of the registry."

"That is awful," Melanie breathed.

"Mmm. Especially because they closed the line down, and I had to start from scratch."

"More billable hours," Michael said.

"Not in this case," Gus said. "I'd already scheduled a two o'clock appointment at Exeter."

"The school?"

"Yeah. With a Mr. J. Foxhill. He turned out to be a third-former with a lot of extra cash who needed someone to sit in detention for him by proxy."

James laughed. "That's ingenuity."

"Needless to say, it wasn't acceptable to the headmaster, who wasted my time with a lecture about adult responsibility even after I told him I didn't know any . . . "

The Pact
A Love Story
. Copyright © by Jodi Picoult. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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What People are saying about this

Anne Rivers Siddons
Anyone who doubts that there is any more vivid, original fiction being written must read The Pact. Jodi Picoult has written a truly fine book, a piece of total contemporary Americana.
Luanne Rice
Jodi Picoult has written a haunting tragedy of two families. The tact is rich with suspense and compassion, and it will make people question how well they know their own children. It is an intensely moving novel.

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Pact 4.3 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 2088 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had read this in my Freshman honors english class. At first i thought it would be just another boring book we had to read for school but as soon as i read the first page i was drawn in and could not put it down. I finished the book in one day even though my deadline to read was not for two weeks. I came in to school the next day and found that most of the class had finished it in one day as well and others were nearly finished as well. There was not a single person in the class of 26 who did not love the book. It made me laugh and cry, even a few of the guys in the class admitted to crying. It was a powerful story and i reccomend it to everyone.
TV_Tam More than 1 year ago
After reading Nineteen Minutes, I picked up the Pact. I wanted an enthralling book, and that is what I got with the Pact. It did not offer the same thrill ride I got with Nineteen minutes, but instead took a deep look into a non-traditional and even twisted relationship between two teenagers. The main characters, Chris and Emily, grew up side by side, becoming inseperable, almost like twins. But when their relationship evolves into something more, it abruptly ends with an apparent suicide pact that leaves one of them dead and one of them alive. Teenage relationships, depression, and suicide are all dissected with the fervor and grace that I've come to love from Jodi Picoult.

This book explores the darker side of love: What is love, and is it too much for some people to handle? What happens when such apparently deep love ends in death? And when it goes wrong, is there a way out?

I found this book intriguing and disturbing all at once, and asked myself these very questions. And although the book came to a satisfying conclusion, I still don't know if I have any answers.
AMARAT More than 1 year ago
LCH47 More than 1 year ago
Although the subject matter is pretty sensitive and I did not agree with all of the book's premise, I could not put it down. I cried. I laughed. This book is a favorite of mine. Jodi is an author that I find compelling, controversial, in that her subject matter touches on highly controversial topics. Her character development is the best. This book really touched my heart. I loved the idea how the author made the story about two kids who grew up together and from the day Emily was born they were placed in the same bassinet up to when they turned teenagers they were inseparable. These two kids have a rare relationship, a bond. Well worth the read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ms. Picoult demonstrates a solid grasp of her subject matter as her characters struggle with the notion of Emily's suicide versus Chris being her murderer. THE PACT: A LOVE STORY is thought provoking, albeit painful at times. The Hartes and the Golds live next to each other, eat together, gather in each others homes and go on vacation together. Somewhere along the way, and much to the parents happiness, Chris and Emily end up dating each other. Soon after, as witnessed in Emily's thoughts and journals, it becomes apparent that she herself is not happy with this; that something in her life and heart is troubled beyond even Chris's presence. The mystery surrounding the night of her death continues for the whole length of the novel, and every turn is shrouded in secrets, lies, and ultimately, the truth. I've always liked reading the thoughts of the different characters. This was different because it went back and forth through time instead of bouncing between characters. The subject - teen suicide (or was it?) was also intriguing. I started it yesterday and finished today. The ending was a surprise, one I know I'll be thinking about for a while. Since its fiction, I'll never really know how true it might be. Good recommended read.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Pact is a sad tell tale. It holds a thin line of the words trapped and inescapable. Between what you have grown up with and what has been given to you. Chris and Emily have been best friends since they were toddlers. But what do you do when the one you love the most, wants to leave. What do you do when your best friend asks you to do the evitable? How do you tell your family, parent's best friend, and your best friend that you want to get out? How do you escape a kind of life that you have been thurst into without a say in what you want anymore? This suspenseful, love story will make your heart shatter at the tragic ways of life. It will make you ache and cry until you learn the truth of letting go.
ClaireClark More than 1 year ago
Like most of Jodi Picoult's book, The Pact hits a sometimes sensitive, rare, and intense subject. Suicide can be a touchy subject and most people and/or authors steer clear of the subject. Thats what makes The Pact so interseting, it goes through the pain and problems of suicide. The book is a tragic love story. It starts off with two families that are unsepratable, their children, Chris and Emily soon follow their parents example and become best friends and become unsepratable. Once the two kids become older they start dating and fall in love. Chris and Emily get into a lot of trouble when they are young and when one dare goes to far it will scar Emily for life. For the next couple of years Emily starts collecting a few dark secrets that she keeps from Chris and her family. With one secret so drak it will mentally kill Chris and her family. With these secrets Emily slowly starts resisting Chris. And once Emily supposibly commits suicide, Chris is the first suspect for murder. When Chris goes to jail and then trial the once so close families are now the worse of enemies. This book really shows the extent and reality of suicdes in high school. I learned a lot from this book but I did not like how sometimes the book was to intense or in other words hardcore. It talks about life in jail, sexual assault, teen pregnacy, drinking, sex, hate, and suicide. Sometimes in the book it is just to much. Overall I liked the book and enjoyed reading it. The Pact is a tragic love story that hits the hard topics that some or most authors would not. Even though the book gets kind of intesne and heated at certain parts, I would still recommend this book.
Wipeoutballs3 More than 1 year ago
The Pact is my favorite book, ever! I really enjoyed this book, and the thinking process I had to go through while reading it! Chris Harte and Emily Gold started dating around the age of thirteen and had been ever since. The two teenagers were thrown into each other’s lives since birth, and soon Emily started having thought’s of suicide. Now, Emily is found with a gunshot wound to the head, and all of the evidence steers toward Chris Harte, her boyfriend, being the killer. The Pact is a very complex type of book. This, in my case, is good. I love books that make me think. There were a few times that I had to set down the book and really think about what I had just read. Also, the book has lots of layers. The story goes into a lot of detail of the relationship between Emily and Chris from childhood to present day. Sometimes it can be confusing to figure out what happened in the past, and what is the present or reality. This book is very depressing, but then again, it revolves a lot on death and suicide. Even though this book is sad and depressing, this is a really great read. The characters seem so real, and so do their emotions. The book keeps you on the edge of your seat, and your always going to wonder what is going to happen next. If you like a very in-detail, romantic type of book, this one is for you!
BreckenridgeReader More than 1 year ago
I can't say enough about this book. I read it YEARS ago and still remember almost every detail. It is captivating, romantic, hearbreaking and beautiful. I love this book. I am also a law and order fan, I feel to fully appreciate this book you must love a little mystery and be a romantic at heart. I have read many of Jodi's books and have liked them, but none compare to The Pact.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jodi does it again and again. I feel like I am involved in the story as she pulls you in. I get little sleep when I read her books as I can not put them down!
AmarLaSempre More than 1 year ago
This book was quite a read. It focused on a touchy subject that many people don't often like to discuss let alone accept in their own lives. I love Jodi's novels, albeit the fact they are all rather similar, there's always a lawyer and some kind of family angst. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy reading her books, because she executes them ever so beautifully. I love that fact actually, that all her books have those things in common, and yet they are all quite different from one another, and she manages to keep her ideas new, and thriving while staying true to what she knows how to write best. The Pact is a very sad story, and if you're a sensitive gal like me, be prepared for a few tears to fall. Chris and Emily were a believable couple to me as far as any fiction story goes, the closeness of their families were also really great. Some people might not believe it, but there are indeed some two unrelated families that are close like that. Before I spoil the book, all there is left to say is that I really loved this book and it's story line, I almost wish it had an alternate ending, or maybe a sequel. But hey, some things are better left for the imagination. Happy Reading everyone! :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read The Pact and I thought that it was a great book to read. I could not put it down. It reminds you of of innocent love, you know that first real relatuionship. I thought that the way it was interesting, how you go from past to present. I would recomend anyone to read this book, you will not regret getting it.
grandmajanes More than 1 year ago
Another great novel. The characters grab you and you love them all. She makes it hard to decide what you would do in the same situation. That's what I love about Jodi's books. They make you look at all sides and make you rethink how you feel. Great book.
Rhiannon89 More than 1 year ago
I love Jodi Picoult's writing style, but I find that sometimes she gets kind of lazy. However, this book is my favorite from her. Simply because I could connect so well to her characters. Both of them. I saw both perspectives and sympathized with both sides of the story which is rare. Having gone through a very similar relationship in my life with a boy I grew up with I can completely understand Emily's perspective and pick up on the subtle underlying things throughout the book that help you to understand the reasoning behind the main tragedy. An amazing read that will definitely pull at your heart strings.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books that I have ever read.. The suspense is awesome! I recomend this book to everyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love picoult. Her writing has a depth that leaves you thinking and wondering about her characters long after you have finished the book. Scary topic, honest writing...that doesnt over reach.
lb2ak More than 1 year ago
I wasn't sure about this book when I first decided to read it. However, I was quickly engrossed into the lives of these two families. I was reading it till the wee hrs of the morning, till my eyes could no longer stay open. The complexity of the human mind is amazing. I would recommend this to anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yea good for u
CleoBZ More than 1 year ago
Excellent! Only Jodi Picoult could write like this!
Cookie22 More than 1 year ago
This story was captivating, I could accomplish nothing while reading it. The story kept calling me back, I was unable to put it down....One of those books you think about long after you finished reading it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Pact is such a wonderful read. I lay awake super late because I could not put this book down. The subject matter of young love and suicide is sensitive, yet you feel the closeness the characters are connected for life and one cannot live without the other. You are drawn not only to the young lovers, but to the families that are ripped apart by tragedy, then the relationship that develops from two of the parental figures. This book makes you feel all the emotions you can fathom, but in the end, sadness for all. It shares with you the impact suicide can have on a whole community, not just the families, and more importantly the finality of death, and the inability to talk about past events can tear a person up from the inside out. Have suggested to many friends this page turner, Piccoult can really make you feel entwined with the lives of her characters. Loved this book and will probably read it again.
Neena_Reads More than 1 year ago
My co-worker recommended this book to me and I picked up the audiobook version so that I could listen to it while doing other things. The fact is that it started out slow but at the same time, it was amazing. Every time I thought I figured something out there was a twist in the plot, the characters were great, and I found myself aching to know what the resolution to the whole thing was. The fact is that this book left an impression on me and that is really hard to do for me sometimes, some books are interesting but they aren't thought provoking. And this book got into my head.
iPodReader More than 1 year ago
Compelling story told from the viewpoints of both teenagers. Not sure I believed so much in the parents-- what parents would really throw their kids together that way?-- but I found Chris and Emily very interesting. The ending really engaged me. In a relationship, how much responsibility do we feel for the other person's happiness? How much for their welfare? And what if the two are in conflict-- what's good for you is different from what makes you happy? It's a lifelong challenge to set appropriate boundaries.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book from start to finish. It was a really hard book to put down. I love how the author tells Chris and Emily's time together, while also telling about Chris's life after Emily is dead. Read this book!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a fan of Jodi Picoult and have read many of her novels and enjoyed them all. "The Pact" was no exception. Jodi writes about situations that make a parent's heart ache at the thought of ever enduring the things these characters, who inevitably become living, breathing, hurting people in your mind, endure. In the course of this novel I cried for both sets of parents and marveled over the love that Chris and Emily had for one another even as I cringed at the unhealthier elements of it...and in the end I could see why things happened as they did and ended so very tragically. This was an emotional, thought provoking story that I would highly recommend...just be prepared to be challenged by the experience!