Perfect Match – Week 4; Chapter 6

August 4, 2007 at 5:03 pm | Posted in Book Club, Jodi Picoult, Perfect Match Week 4, vigilante justice | 3 Comments

Before I read this chapter, I found myself wondering if I just didn’t like Nina or if the character of Nina was written that way.  After finishing Chapter 6, I still do not like Nina, but I believe that Picoult wrote her character very honestly.  I’m sure that there are people who have read this book who like Nina very much.  One could easily say that she is doing everything in her power to protect her son.  I see a woman who has now, on at least four occassions, tried to tightly control the situation even though each and every attempt has blown up her son’s life.  At what point does a person notice and take to heart that things get worse the more that she interferes?

As I speculated from the beginning, Father Glen was not the man responsible for molesting Nathaniel.  The initial blood tests point to him, but a biological loophole clears him.  It seems that Fr. Glen had a bone marrow transplant because he had leukemia.  The man who provide his bone marrow was the man responsible for molesting Nathaniel.  This man was Fr. Glen’s half-brother and one of the clergy visiting Fr. Glen’s parish.  To Nina’s credit, Nina lets go of her smug self-righteousness long enough to feel guilty for what she did.  She realizes that she is a living, breathing example of why there is a justice system and why vigilante justice is against the law.  Even prosecutors peg the wrong man once in a while.

The guilt and sorrow she feels makes her more human to me.  It didn’t hold Nina back for long, though.  She confides only in Patrick and lies to her husband.  She uses her influence over Patrick to manipulate him into tracking down the man responsible for hurting her son.  She doesn’t believe that Patrick could or would take justice into his own hands, but that doesn’t stop her from planting the bug, so to speak.   When Caleb finally learns the truth, he leaves and takes Nathaniel with him.  Due to the terms of her second release from jail, Nina must stay at home.  Alone.  Where she should have stayed.  Nina doesn’t like to be alone, and Patrick sure did come in handy on Christmas Eve…  She had and took the chance to further damage her family and break the heart of her best friend.

I found the DNA twist to be more than far-fetched.  On top of this being a one in a billion chance that the DNA evidence would be wrong, it also just so happens to be the time when the innocent man was killed before receiving a fair hearing.  Fr. Glen was the wonderful man everyone claimed that he was.  So, I cannot believe that Fr. Glen would not sense that his half brother had a dark side.  I can’t see him allowing the other man any where near children.  He might not have turned his back on his half brother, but he wouldn’t have invited him willingly into his parish life.  Even if he did, wouldn’t Fr. Glen suspect what happened from the moment he was questioned?  Wait!  Maybe he did.  We’ll never know.  He was murdered before his attorney had the chance to speak at his arraignment.

As a reader, I’m not thinking that I am a “perfect match” for this book.  Alas, I will soldier on.

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  1. I loved your comments on this. I have so many thoughts, but will need to corral them and post tomorrow (we just had a long weekend here, and I am totally exhausted. I think I need a weekend to recover from my weekend!)

    So far everytime I’ve put this book down, it has been with a grumble and a “bah, pshaw!”

  2. Okay, I’ve finally had a chance to corral my thoughts on this, and get them down. First off, I should say I’m having a lot of trouble with this book, and I’m not really sure where to begin.

    It started almost immediately – from the point where Nina doesn’t realize her son hasn’t spoken all morning. My daughter isn’t old enough to speak with words, but if she didn’t babble all morning, I think I’d notice at this point and think she was ill, or that something was up. This was the first “stretch” that Jodi Picoult made to push the story along that irritated me, and it was in the first chapter of the book! From there on, it seemed like one coincidence, stretch and pooor plot device after another.

    From Nina’s need to push Nathaniel to identify his abuser, to her near-instant accusal of Caleb, to how quickly she shifted to Father Glen. I had problems with all of this, especially with her knowledge of child abuse. I can understand how you might not be able to think rationally when it is your child, but some of this seemed like such a stretch to me. I could see her reactions with respect to the legal system as perhaps being valid, but the aspects of the child’s psychology don’t change because it is your child, and that was the part I had a problem with.

    I think by far, the point where I found the biggest stretch was on page 87 (chapter 3) where Nina remembers Nathaniel coming home with different underwear from church. Again, my daughter isn’t old enough yet for this to be an issue, but if my child came home IN DIFFERENT UNDERWEAR I’d sure as heck be asking some questions. Even if my child still had accidents, why didn’t someone tell me? Where did the underwear come from? Who changed him (he’s too old to have just anyone change him at that point, isn’t he?) This detail completely unsettled and bothered me. I think as a parent, even if you are busy, this detail wouldn’t be left behind. Am I wrong here?

    After that, there were so many issues: Nina’s relationships/dependence on the men in her life (poor, led-on Patrick, the patient Caleb, even Peter from work). Oh wait, make that everyone *except* her lawyer, Fisher Carrington. Sigh. I hated how quickly Nina shifted the blame from Caleb (?!) to Father Glen. I hated that she tried to rationalize her shooting of Father Glen and attempted to dupe the system by pretending to be insane, not seeing the hypocrisy in her own actions. And when Fisher immediately calls her bail in when he sees Peter talking to her? Even the most vindictive of DAs would likely attempt to find out what the situation was, especially when the child is right there.

    And oh, the ease with which she pulled out the incredibly weak “1 in 6 billion” plot device. Simply inexcusable. A weak, juvenile, amateurish plot device (so says I, in my humble opinion 🙂

    And the Patrick/Nina affair on Christmas. Gah!

    Perhaps Jodi Picoult is attempting to make a unlikable character. Perhaps you aren’t meant to be able to relate to Nina, but it seems to me that her intent was for us to identify with Nina. Busy working mother, overcome with guilt, the “what if this happened to us”. But she takes so many liberties with Nina’s character – you never feel that she is acting out of love for her son, or really see any rationalization, and I think that is this book’s greatest weakness.

    Now, after all that negativity, I will say that Jodi Picoult does have a way with a lovely turn of phrase at certain points. Almost all of the scenes from Nathaniel’s viewpoint are beautifully written. Certain phrases like “…tuck the boys giggles away in his pocket when he though no one was looking” (p. 82) are quite beautiful. But that simply isn’t enough.

  3. Girlfriend, I say “Amen” to everything you said.

    Regarding the underwear – I might not always know the exact pair that my child is wearing, but if my child went to church wearing boxers and came home in briefs, I’d be calling people at home if necessary to find out why. In fact, I would be questioning any adult that came in contact with him/her as to why they didn’t let me know personally. That is me as a non-DA mother. As a DA, especially one who dealt with a great deal of child abuse, I cannot believe that something like this would have been let go and become an after thought. Could this really have happened without sending off alarms all throughout her body? As paranoid and control-freakish as she is, I can’t believe that she could sleep a wink the day that happened.

    This leads me down another path. Why in the name of all that is holy would a child molester allow his victim to leave the scene of the crime with the only physical evidence that could link him to what happend after the child bathed?

    Jodi Picoult is a beautiful writer. I liked the exact quote you used on page 82. The parts written from Nathaniel’s point of view seemed very real and honest. It makes you want to love that child and never let him go. –Nina, just for your clarification, this is not what you are doing. Don’t lie to yourself about it.


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