Title: Second Nature: A Love Story
Author: Jacquelyn Mitchard
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Publisher: Random House
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Rebecca Lowman
First line: This is what I know.
When Sicily Coyne was thirteen years old, she watched her firefighter father die attempting to rescue a boy from a fire. The same fire took Sicily’s face, leaving her scarred and disfigured. Shortly afterward, her mother died, and Sicily was adopted by Marie, her aunt – a fiercely loyal and amazingly strong woman. At age twenty-five, Sicily has made a life for herself. Raised to live as much of a normal life as she can, Sicily has a career that she excels at and is engaged to a man she loves. But when a horrific revelation destroys her relationship with her fiance, Sicily is left to reevaluate her life. She decides to pursue a total face transplant, a new procedure that will give her back not only her face, but her ability to eat, to taste, to smell, to kiss.
As I was writing the above synopsis, I realized that I can’t go any farther in the story than that without giving away too much of the plot. This is not a book you want spoiled for you. I will simply say that this book is stuffed full of discussion points about medical ethics, relationships, the nature of family, love, loss. And, for fans of Mitchard’s work, members of the Cappadora family (The Deep End of the Ocean, No Time to Wave Goodbye) have supporting, but important, roles in Sicily’s story.
While the last quarter of the book seemed to come apart at the seams a bit, Mitchard continues to impress me with the beauty of her writing. She writes plot- and character-driven fiction, but still has a poetic way of putting the words on the page. For the most part, I loved Sicily’s character. There were a few times when I thought she wallowed a bit in self-pity (and, yes, I know this is a woman who has lost almost everything, and has a right to self-pity) and that wallowing sometimes kept her from seeing how her actions and choices were causing others to suffer.
The subject matter and beautiful writing, though, still make this a book I would recommend. I will give you a slight warning, though, that the ending is quite ambiguous, and so if you need an ending that wraps everything up neatly, you will be disappointed. I know what I think happened after those final words, but I have no idea if what I pictured is the same thing the author imagined.
Audio notes: I believe this was my first experience with Rebecca Lowman’s narration, but she is clearly an accomplished voice artist. She gave life to the portions told in first person by Sicily. During the third-person sections of the story, she did the nearly impossible task of making several American voices all sound different. I never had to wonder who was speaking, and that is something I appreciate in an audiobook.