Reading like a Writer … “Mercy” by Jodi Picoult

Published on: Author: bette 5 Comments

The first time I ever thought about reading like a writer was when my daughter was in the sixth grade. I knew she had started reading Anne of Green Gables, but I also realized that she wasn’t reading very fast.  We had gone back and forth for years about whether or not she needed glasses, but after the 4th or 5th lost pair we gave up.  At that point she bought herself a pair of drugstore reading glasses and that was the end of that!  I always thought that the reason she read so slowly and/or just didn’t like to read was because of her eyes.  Then came the day that I realized what was really going on.


Like I said … she had started reading Anne of Green Gables when she came flying into the living room one day with the book open saying “Mom!  You’ve got to listen to this!”  Then she proceeded to read two paragraphs of gorgeous descriptive text to me.

“Wow, Shannon!  You read like a writer!”


I had been teaching language arts for many years by that time … and for awhile taught in a departmentalized 6th grade situation where one teacher taught Math, another Reading, and  I taught Writing.  I have trouble wrapping my brain around that concept now! I can’t even imagine separating reading and writing.  That also may be why I am such a slow reader. I read like a writer too! 


A couple of weeks ago I posted something here that suggested a new use for this site.  My thought was that we could use it for a sort of on-line book group … a place where we could chat about books any time – without having to show up at someone’s house with a snack to share or to finish a book in a set length of time.  After awhile, since there didn’t seem to be any interest, I took that post down.  This morning, however, when I was sitting in the hot tub starting to read a new book, I once again thought about “reading like a writer” … and realized what that means to me.


In a nutshell … when I really like a book I seem to have a running dialogue with myself as I’m reading. As a former English teacher I probably do that more than most people, but I know that everyone occasionally reads that line (or sentence, or paragraph) that almost jumps off the page and wants to be noticed.  (I once had a student tell me that she thought of them as “luminous phrases.”  No kidding!  A fifth grader named Stacy!)

Not only that, but by the time I’ve finished about three-fourths of the book,  I’ve already written the sequel, or several sequels, in my mind.  I never actually write them down, of course, and when someone later asks if I’ve read the book I’ve usually forgotten most of the details.  But as I’m reading I keep wanting to stop and talk about it.


That brings me to this morning in the hot tub.  I read the first 3 pages of Jodi Picoult’s book Mercy and needed to stop and talk about it.  (Do you see why I read so slowly?!!)   Bottom line … the blurb on the back of the book let me know that the book is about a mercy killing.  So when I started reading the prologue in which someone was clearing out a house for a yard sale … I assumed it had something to do with the person who had killed his or her spouse – or the person who had to clean up after the tragedy. Turns out I was wrong on both counts. Or at least I think I was wrong 😉 .  Either way, I had to stop reading right there and take time to process it a bit. I was also too hot to stay in the spa … and I didn’t want to forget the cool little factoid about the tribal Indian societies centuries earlier, in which women had the power to divorce a husband by stacking his shoes outside the tipi.

So that’s what I have to say about the Prologue.  Has anyone else read this book:

Mercy – by Jodi Picoult


5 Responses to Reading like a Writer … “Mercy” by Jodi Picoult Comments (RSS) Comments (RSS)

  1. Thanks for the comments Kim and Berma! Don’t worry about replying to any of this … I’m just playing around with how to approach a section of a chapter that will be in both of my books … unless the two books morph into one before I’m done. It’s a “generic” structure that I developed for studying literature. I originally designed it in the days of “Whole Language” for 8th graders. When I later taught 4th and 5th … I found it worked equally well … and was actually easier to teach them because that hadn’t been taught the “traditional” way for so long (and weren’t as resistant to the change.)

    It’s called “Keys to Literature” and there are 5 sections …. and I won’t go on since I really should be writing the book … not playing around here …. lol!

    That said … feel free to reply if it’s fun 🙂 ….

  2. When I started writing seriously I started reading “like a writer”.
    I have come across 2 books that sound a bit similar to the “voice in my head”. They are great stories, or at least the kind of stories I love to read.

    • I’ve never thought of it this way but that made me think of that movie where the guy started hearing a “voice over” in his head that sounded like he was writing a story. What are the books … I like your voice in “Mauri” … so I might like them 🙂 !

  3. I totally understand your “reading like a writer” concept. I think I do that too most of the time. I have not read “Mercy” but will check it out, as soon as I’m finished reading The Toxic Octopus, a murder mystery by
    Perry’s sister, Lisa Haneberg. (Also the author of Two Weeks to a Breakthrough).
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Have you read any other books by Jodi Picoult? I just finished the first chapter and as I was reading I became even more aware that I was thinking about her as a writer as much as I was thinking about the story! (Probably because I was thinking about this post!) She introduces the main characters … and at one point I concluded that Allie was probably the woman who makes that cryptic remark about divorcing a husband by leaving his shoes outside the tipi!

      The other think I started to wonder about was how much time a novelist must have to spend on research! Allie runs a flower shop and goes into a great deal of detail about flowers and their meanings …. and weaves all that into what looks like it’s going to be the love stories of two couples …. with “supporting characters” who were former lovers, wannabe lovers … or just observers of the relationships.

      When I get a chance I’ll check out Perry’s sister. Murder mysteries aren’t my thing … but they are my husband’s :-).

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