The Pact by Jodi Picoult

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Like bread and butter, Chris Harte and Emily Gold were always meant to be together. Their parents become the best of friends following the Golds’ move to Bainbridge; their children are declared sole mates from birth. So it is no surprise when Chris and Emily’s high school friendship cultivates into something more. Yet one night both families receive a startling call that will change their lives forever: Emily is found dead at the hands of a smoking gun, and all heads turn to Chris, who claims the death was part of an unforeseen suicide pact. A compelling read from beginning to end, The Pact combines rich drama, emotion, and intelligence into one award-winning novel.
Serving as the driving force in the novel, dramatic tension keeps the reader absorbed in a whirl of sentiments as the Hartes and the Golds struggle to sustain their stability, sanity, and marriages amidst turmoil of injustice and accusations. Confusion leads Michael Gold and Gus Hart to find a connection with each other that cannot be reached with their respective spouses, allowing the reader to explore the dark depths of disorientation along with them. At one point in the novel, Michael and Gus agree to meet for lunch to discuss what they miss most about their children. Gus finds her sudden attraction to Michael confusing; she can not determine if she is in love again or if she is just relieved that Michael is able to understand her pain: “Gus closed her eyes, suddenly realizing what no one else had been able to for months - why the bright, lively, intelligent Emily Gold might have been confused enough to take her own life,” (Picoult 273). The Pact also

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incorporates dramatic tension through the production of a high-stakes legal battle. Picoult fails to disappoint, developing such high levels of suspense prior to the murder trial that the reader is left just as confused and emotionally exhausted as Chris at the onset of the arraignment: “He [Chris] has just spent an hour hearing what a sociopath he is, and there isn’t even a friendly face in the courtroom. . . When he looked into his face, he saw the tightly drawn mouth and pale countenance of a very frightened teenager,” (302). The intensity of this novel’s drama keeps the reader on the edge of his or her seat up until the final chapter.

Picoult’s ability to intertwine reminiscent memories with the bitter circumstances of actuality proves to be her greatest accomplishment in this novel. The chapters of The Pact alternate between an idyllic past and unconceivable present, weaving each step of Chris and Emily’s prior relationship with a stirring portrait of households flooded with anguish. The portions of the novel that are set in the past depict Chris and Emily’s journey through adolescence, beginning with colorful childhood memories of carousels and ending in a passionate romance. The natural, coinciding feelings of love and confusion take the reader back in time to his or her own high school experiences: “How could he [Chris] convey to someone who'd never even met her the way she always smelled like rain, or how it felt when she finished his sentences, when he turned the mug they were sharing so that her mouth landed where his had been? How did he explain the way they could be in a locker room, or underwater, or in the piney woods of Maine, but as long as Em was with him, he was at home?” (158). Yet with another chapter, the reader is swept into a puzzle of emotions and left to piece together the remains and question the relationship that Chris and Emily once shared. The abstruse questions proposed to these families are those that all readers can relate to: How well does one actually know his or her family or friends? As stated every so bluntly by Melanie Gold: “‘Chris and

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Emily grew up together. He was always welcome in our house. He was like a son to us. . . I think he killed her,’” (318). It is this immediate contrast between past and present that allows the reader to fully understand the true meaning of the novel.
A consistent theme of undying love secures the emotional rollercoaster that the reader is subjected to. The Pact is ultimately a story of love, and what a person will do for love, whether it is for a girlfriend or for a child. Emily and Chris share a love like no other, but Picoult explores another realm of romance that is not as easily understood: “When you loved someone, you put their needs before your own. No matter how inconceivable those needs were; no matter how much it made you feel like you were ripping yourself into pieces,” (327). Chris thinks these words just moments before he assists his beloved girlfriend in suicide; it is his perpetual love for Emily that leads Chris to face murder charges. Demonstrating a vague phenomenon, The Pact openly allows the reader to understand love to new lengths.
A rich combination of love and tragedy, The Pact is a definite must read. It is integrated with the heart and soul of one of today’s highly acclaimed authors, and teenagers and parents alike will find themselves able to connect with the superiorly crafted characters and to question the true meaning of love. This is one novel that will most definitely withstand the test of time.





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