The Pact: A Love Story

The Pact: A Love Story

4.3 2087
by Jodi Picoult, George Guidall
     
 

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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

Overview

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

ISBN-13:
9781419361456
Publisher:
Recorded Books, LLC
Publication date:
10/28/2005
Edition description:
Unabridged, 13 CDs, 15 hours
Pages:
13
Sales rank:
490,017
Product dimensions:
5.28(w) x 5.74(h) x 1.98(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Pact
A Love Story

Chapter One

Now

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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