Review: Second Nature by Jacquelyn Mitchard

Title: Second Chance: A Love Story

Author: Jacquelyn Mitchard

Published: Random House September 2011

Synopsis: Sicily Coyne was just thirteen when her father was killed in a school fire that left her face disfigured. Twelve years later, a young surgeon, Eliza Cappadora, offers hope in the form of a revolutionary new surgery that may give Sicily back the grace and function she lost. Raised by a dynamic, tenacious aunt who taught her to lead a normal life, and engaged to a wonderful man who knew her long before the accident, Sicily rejects the offer: She knows who she is, and so do the people who love her. But when a secret surfaces that shatters Sicily’s carefully constructed world, she calls off the wedding and agrees to the radical procedure in order to begin a new life. Her beauty restored virtually overnight, Sicily rushes toward life with open arms, seeking new experiences, adventures, and, most of all, love. But she soon discovers that her new face carries with it risks that no one could have imagined. Confronting a moral and medical crisis that quickly becomes a matter of life and death, Sicily is surrounded by experts and loving family, but the choice that will transform her future, for better or worse, is one she must make alone. An intense and moving story of courage, consequence, and possibility, Second Nature showcases the acclaimed storyteller at her very best.

Status: Read on September 08, 2011 — I own a copy {Courtesy Random House/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

I adored Mitchard’s The Deep End of the Ocean, the first Oprah book club book I ever purchased, it had a huge impact on me largely because I was pregnant with my first child at the time. I didn’t realise No Time to Wave Goodbye was a sequel of sorts but when the opportunity to review Second Nature arose, a story that also involves the Cappadora family, arose I jumped at it.

Second Nature has an interesting premise, Sicily Coyne is established as a sympathetic, brave young woman who has thrived despite horrific injuries from the fire that killed her father, and then the tragic loss of her mother soon after. Raised by her glamorous yet doting aunt, Sicily has a comfortable career and is just weeks away from marrying her handsome firefighter boyfriend when the truth of the blaze that destroyed her family, and her face, surfaces. With her illusions shattered, Sicily decides to accept the offer of a face transplant – a technique much improved over the past decade, that promises to give her a more normal appearance. It’s a surgery that is not without it’s risks however and for Sicily the consequences are more far reaching than she could ever imagine.
I have to admit it took me a bit longer than I liked to become really interested her story though. I think my initial reluctance stemmed from the use of the first person point of view, a narrative I often struggle with because it usually leads to paragraphs of information, thinly disguised as a train of thought, that tend to run together. I was much more comfortable once the point of view changed to the third person only for it to switch again but with ‘introductions’ out of the way the story flowed much more easily for me.
There is no denying that Mitchard’s stories are melodramatic, designed to pull at the heart strings they exploit unimaginable tragedy. Yet to be fair her characters are often so realistically portrayed that the less subtle aspects of her plots can be forgiven.
Sicily is immediately sympathetic, and much like her family and friends, we are predisposed to give her leeway we might not usually permit. Despite Sicily’s incredible adjustment to her situation her life has not been normal and her emotional reactions reflect that. It excuses some of the poor decisions she makes post transplant but I must admit there were moments when I wasn’t sure if I liked Sicily much. I don’t doubt that it is a deliberate manipulation by Mitchard who is skilled at creating characters who are emotionally complex and provoke a mix of reactions.
Subtitled A Love Story there is nothing conventional about the romantic entanglements in Second Nature. Sicily’s relations with Vincent is complicated and the conclusion has a slightly unsatisfying ambiguity.
I believe the subtitle likely refers more to the varieties of love that are encountered in the this novel, including self acceptance and the unconditional love of family.

Second Nature is interesting but I didn’t find it nearly as absorbing as I hoped. There was just a touch too much drama, and I had expected a more uplifting conclusion.

Available to Purchase

@ Amazon

@ Book Depository

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mari (Bookworm with a View)
    Sep 15, 2011 @ 11:06:23

    I just downloaded a copy of this book from NetGalley, I hope I enjoy it. I don’t mind drama (too much of it) but hopefully it serves a purpose.

    Great review!

    Like

    Reply

  2. Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic
    Sep 17, 2011 @ 01:45:44

    I may go take a look at this one. I just want to know more. I’m so curious about the event that caused her to have the surgery. It sounds interesting.

    Like

    Reply

  3. mari (Bookworm with a View)
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 12:39:29

    Reading your review has helped me process my thoughts for this book. I didn’t hate it and dare I say the writing is wonderful.

    The frist person did impact my reaction. I also didn’t like that the book was helf done and she hadn’t had the surgery yet!

    I kind of liked the ending, no closure.

    Like

    Reply

    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
      Oct 17, 2011 @ 14:21:34

      Even reflecting on it I am still ambiguous. I liked the premise and parts of the story, but overall it was just sort of meh for me

      Like

      Reply

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