Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

by jptanabe

"Nineteen Minutes" is a gut-wrenching story told by the masterful Jodi Picoult. I love her work and this is one of her best novels.

I picked up this novel by Jodi Picoult at the airport on my way to Scotland a couple of summers ago. My plane was delayed for hours and so I just had to get some new reading material. I chose this one because I've read other novels by Jodi Picoult and love her writing style. I had, however, forgotten that her subject matter is often disturbing, to say the least!

Without checking properly what it was about, beyond a brief glance at the blurb on the back "an ordinary New Hampshire town where nothing ever happens," "an act of violence," and something about a trial. I just grabbed it along with another, thinking I'd be able to enjoy them as "light summer reading." Boy, was I ever wrong!

Now, don't get me wrong. I really enjoyed "Nineteen Minutes" - it's brilliantly written and the characters are just so real. The situation, though, is not fun at all.

So what is it about?

The act of violence is a school shooting, that lasts for the title's nineteen minutes, and forever changes the community. Less than a year previously the news had been full of the latest school shooting, this one in Connecticut, not so far from where I live. They kept saying the shooter had mental problems in that one, and somehow the mother should have done more to prevent the tragedy, or the system or both should have done something.

When I realized what "Nineteen Minutes" was about I initially expected a similar type of situation. Again, boy was I wrong! Jodi Picoult, in her usual fashion, delves into the situation from all angles - the perspective of the shooter, the victims, the parents of the victims, the parents of the shooter, the friend of the shooter, the kids who bullied the shooter, the detective assigned to the case, the judge who had to recuse herself because her daughter knew both the shooter and a victim - see how complicated it gets?

In reading the book you experience empathy for the shooter, a child whose first day at school was a horrifying wake up call, the agony experienced by the parents of the victims, the shock of the shooter's parents, the feelings of the other students, and so on. Although the novel ends with all their stories reaching some kind of resolution, the reader is left with many questions to ponder.

One point that hit me was why do some children enjoy life in school, being popular and successful, while others (like a younger sibling) suffer through bullying and rejection? And what does a parent do when their children have such opposite experiences?

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This is not an easy book to read, not for any parent for sure.

However, I do highly recommend it. Just be ready to go on an emotional roller coaster when you read it!

Jodi Picoult Interviews

More about the author, Jodi Picoult, and how she crafts her novels

More books by Jodi Picoult

Here are three more of my favorite novels by Jodi Picoult. Yes, they're all disturbing in addressing those difficult situations and events that we all hope will never happen to us or our loved ones. But they make such good stories, and movies!

My Sister's Keeper


What a moral dilemma!

Conceived as a genetic match for her sick sister, what kind of life can and should this girl have?

And will the parents ever see her as their daughter, a real human being, not just an organ donor for their first child?

The Pact: A Love Story


In this book Picoult takes on the harsh but all-too familiar topic these days of teenage suicide.

The pact of the title refers to the apparent agreement between the two teenagers to die together.

However, only one is dead and the other is charged with murder. How do the two families cope?

Perfect Match


Child molestation by a Catholic priest - another unfortunate situation many have experienced in recent times.

The mother is determined to obtain justice, even though the system seems to be failing her. But how far should she go in her vigilante quest?

Updated: 02/15/2024, jptanabe
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jptanabe on 09/23/2015

Ah, happier books! I hear you Mira. Definitely have to be prepared for emotional shocks when reading Jodi Picoult, but worth it when you are.

Mira on 09/23/2015

A friend of mine reads her novels, and I've also read about Jodi Picoult. Now I watched three of your videos, and she's definitely amazing. I will probably start reading her at some point. It's just that I often feel the need for happier books :) But the topics she chooses are very compelling.

I have watched My Sister's Keeper, by the way, and it was really good.

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