Cover Image: The Book of Two Ways: A stunning novel about life, death and missed opportunities

The Book of Two Ways: A stunning novel about life, death and missed opportunities

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There are some beautiful and poignant observations that resonated with me deeply, and the writing is, as always compelling.
The history lessons were actually hugely enjoyable and very interesting even though I don't feel they were necessary for the storyline. They added to the bigger picture of life and death which is an important theme throughout. 
The thing I found most difficult was the plotline, especially the ending! It just didn't sit right. The last 25% of the storyline just seemed to tie up too neatly. It could have been much more powerful to end with a death, possibly Dawn's own. 
Brian's depth of love and kindness towards her also was hard to believe especially for a man who was on the verge of an affair and needs a magazine article telling him how to behave. His 'niceness' also only made me dislike Dawn more and more as I found her irritatingly selfish and shallow. 
The last tiny thing that niggled throughout was Wyatt's name! It's a name that is usually only a surname here in England as is considered very modern and American. For a traditional British peer to be named Wyatt is barely believable, although of course not impossible. For his ancestors to have attended Yale seemed doubtful, as years ago American universities were not as highly rated as Oxbridge. He would have had to be from a very progressive family, but we are told that his father doesn't approve of his career, and the message he left on the phone was sterotypically repressed British. It just didn't make sense. Also Anya is also supposed to be from nobility, yet her language is more Paris Hilton than posh! 
Overall, despite some beautifully crafted observations the book was a disappointment.
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I have read all of Jodi Picoult's books, and have become used to the way she jumps back and forth between characters/places/timelines then ties everything together at the end.  In that regard, this book is no different however, it now feels more like a chore.  It is apparent that Jodi Picoult has done extensive research into Egyptology and wants all of that authenticity and expertise to pour out of the pages, which it does, but it's at the expense of the narrative and characterisation.  

On one hand, you could say that this book is a fascinating exploration of death across the ages, and how we as humanity faces death in different cultures.  Perhaps we can look at Dawn's experiences as compared to the experiences of Ancient Egyptians and ponder what we have to learn from them.  For those who wish to consider those themes in depth, there's a lot for you in this book.  

For me, a book is all about the characters and I just don't feel as though I really got to know any of them terribly well.  I genuinely didn't care what happened to them, I was disconnected emotionally and I skipped pages at a time when there was a long, rambling section about the Egyptians.  I'd sooner watch a documentary, where I can see these drawings etc. for myself - the material is just dry without being able to see/visualise what I'm supposed to be reading about.  

The supposed twist is too obvious and the book ended just as I was getting interested.  Normally, for me, Jodi Picoult's books are about the dynamic between characters and how ordinary people fare when faced with hardship and exceptional circumstances.  I felt as though a lot of what I love about her books was lost in her eagerness to educate us.  

As always, it is beautifully written with her typically intricate descriptions of people and places.  It's not a bad book by any means, but not one that adheres to her usual style and not one that I enjoyed reading.
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A new Jodi Picoult book is always a treat - some are more indulgent than others, but all satisfy the book equivalent of a sweet craving. I'd say that this one is a bit like a cream tea - well done, enjoyable, but maybe not quite as flashy as a full-blown afternoon tea with champagne and fiddly cakes. The information about Egyptian tombs etc was fascinating, and you could sense the author's interest in the field, without it feeling like you're being "taught something". Would recommend, although maybe not as a place to start for people who haven't read the author before.
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I adore Jodi Picoult and this book definitely has not disappointed. This is a fantastic read which has been completely worth the wait. I haven't wanted to put this down. 

Public Review to follow on publication day
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Wow! This really is a stunning book. I can’t begin to imagine the depth of research that had to happen to make this story possible. The Quantum Physics blew my mind a bit but the Egyptology was so detailed and so interesting! It takes a highly skilled author to weave both of these areas into a beautiful story that their readers can relate to. Highly recommended!
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#i'm a big fan of Jodi Picoult and this book does not disappoint. It shows the outcome of two different choices made by Dawn, the main character following a plane crash. It is beautifully written and the references to Egyptology and history are well done and informative.
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I’m a big fan of Jodi Picoult and was thrilled to be approved for the ARC.

This book is a slow burner. The strands are carefully woven and suddenly, hours have passed and you are completely enthralled. There is an incredible amount of meticulously researched technical information in this book- both about Middle Egypt and Physics. It can feel a little off putting but I found I was able to skim read without really needing to understand- the characters needed to share their thoughts and explain the importance but I really didn’t need to know why. 

As always, Jodi Picoult creates characters we care about having relationships we can identify with. I absolutely loved the mother/daughter relationship between Dawn and Meret. I have my own teenaged daughter and so much of their relationship echoed my own experiences. 

All in all, I really enjoyed this book and found it refreshingly different and interesting. Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for my copy of this book.
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As a huge fan of Jodi’s, I was so grateful to offered the chance to read an early copy of her latest novel. Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity.
A different type of novel to most of her previous, The Book Of Two Ways is predominately a love story centred around the life of one woman, Dawn, who begins the book by surviving a traumatic plane crash. Once she is checked over, she is given the option of a flight anywhere in the world. The question is, as in The Book Of Two Ways, which place will she choose - home, to her husband and daughter, or Egypt, to a previously love and a previous life.
I could not put this book down and the story will stay with me now that I have finished it. Thank you Jodi and NetGalley.
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Jodi Picoult’s books rarely disappoint. As with most of her books you get completely absorbed with the characters and start to think about your own life. There are a lot of history and Egyptology elements to this book which might not suit some people but these parts are essential to this story about life, love, death and choices.
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I was already a Jodi Picoult fan so I was delighted to be able to read this book and it didn’t disappoint. I was hooked from the first page. The great thing about Jodi Picoults books is that they are never formulaic and this is true for Two ways which has a really fascinating premise. I learnt a lot about a topic that I can’t say I was interested in particularly and the well drawn characters kept me hooked until the final page. I love this book and would recommend it highly.
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Thank you to Jodi Picoult, Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for the chance to read The Book of Two Ways.
I would recommend this to: My smart sister.

“Who would you be, if you hadn't turned out to be the person you are now?
Dawn is a death doula, and spends her life helping people make the final transition peacefully. But when the plane she's on plummets, she finds herself thinking not of the perfect life she has, but the life she was forced to abandon fifteen years ago - when she left behind a career in Egyptology, and a man she loved.

As the path of her life forks in two very different directions, Dawn must confront questions she's never truly asked: What does a well-lived life look like? What do we leave behind when we go? And do we make our choices, or do our choices make us?”

Wow, I loved this book. I’m writing this a little bleary-eyed as it kept me up until beyond 3am - I couldn’t put it down. I won’t go into why this book reached so far into me, that’s too personal, but I turned 50 this year and there are some echoes of my life within it. Perhaps that’s why it is a clear 5 star read to me. 

Other reviewers have commented on the academic sections of the book - it’s true that there are some mind-boggling scholarly paragraphs, and as someone who didn’t go to university this had the potential to lose me, but I soon realised that I didn’t have to *learn* this information, nor even to fully understand it, to know that it was there to tell us about the characters. Rather like listening to my younger son when all he wanted to do was tell me about his latest Minecraft Mods, I just needed to know that it was important to the people I’d become invested in through the story. That said, it wasn’t written to be over our heads, as such, as I took in enough of the information to understand that it all related to the plot, and the lives that Dawn, Brian, Wyatt and Win were living. 

This was a classy novel, tackling some very difficult topics head on. I was familiar with the role of death doula, and I liked the friendship that developed between Dawn and her client Win, which was the main catalyst for everything that followed. 

[No spoilers, but some more plot references follow:]

In the acknowledgements the author tells us that there was originally an alternate ending and I wonder what that was - it might be one that I’d prefer as I’m not one to be left making my own mind up! After I’d invested so much into listening to their torments and dilemmas, the ending felt a touch unsatisfactory. But that is a personal preference - I like a wrapped-up story, rather like Dawn’s clients before they depart. 
‘What’s left unsaid?’ The ending! 

That said… in the last chapters I wanted Wyatt to stop using the name Olive - a name from the past. It troubled me that he wasn’t acknowledging that they were grown, changed people with different responsibilities, and if I were in her shoes that would be the small detail that would help me to make a decision...
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The Book of Two Ways, Jodi Picoult 4/5 

Dawn is a death doula, she spends her days preparing people for their own deaths and making their final transitions peaceful. However when a plane she is on plummets, she is forced to face her own reality, not of the perfect life she has now, but of the one she abandoned 15 years ago when she walked away from a career in Egyptology and a man she loved. Against the odds Dawn survives and offered a ticket to wherever she needs to go Dawn is faced with a decision... 2 futures. 1 choice.

Huge thanks to #NetGalley & #Hodder&Stoughton for a ARC of this book in exchange for a review. 

Jodi Picoult is just a master of fiction. I’ve followed her work along the years and she never fails to impress. Her stories are always carefully interwoven with difficult decisions and layers of folklore and history. The Book of Two Ways is no exception, Jodi masterfully crafts together a compelling novel about life, death and the choices we make. 
This book is rich with storytelling, weaving back and forth through the timelines of Dawns line as she asks complex questions about the nature of what it is to be human. 
In particular here, I found Picoults’ explanations of death to be beautifully composed. 
This one is more history and factually heavy than some of her others, but it is essential to the story and fascinating to explore.
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So I’m a huge Jodi Picoult fan, I’ve read almost all of her books (a few just didn’t take my fancy, I will get round to them though). So when this popped up on Netgalley, I knew I had to try. I requested her last 2 and was rejected for both, so when this one was accepted, I screamed. Everything else got pushed back and The Book of Two Ways went right to the top of my list. It took me a while to get through this, only for the reasons of distractions with 2 at home kids, both with special needs. But I tried reading every night before sleep. Last night I was awake until 1am finishing it, wiping my tears before they soaked my pillow.

The book starts with Dawn, who is on a plane which makes an emergency landing. We don’t know why or what really is happening, but the next step leads us to see where she decides to go next. The Story unfolds over 2 different places and a few different times. We see Water/Boston, which is her home with her husband and daughter, we see Land/Egypt, which follows her in Egypt with Wyatt. The chapters bounce from present to past, but it is easy to follow which is which. 

Dawns job is a death doula, which made me think is this a real thing? And wow it is. What a brave job to do, in my opinion. Dawn talks about how she helps a patient at the end, how she will do anything they ask, be there if they wish when they take their final breath, stay around and help the loved ones left behind manage to grieve. My heart broke during the parts she was with a patient, the emotion Jodi put in those pages killed me, I will admit I cried more than once, almost always during those scenes.

The other side of the book is Dawn’s past when she was in Egypt as an archeological student, finding hidden treasures, decoding ancient Hieroglyphs, searching for the Book of Two Ways. I’m not going to lie, at first I found myself a bit confused with all the names of the Egyptian Kings and Queens, but I got used to it fairly quickly. I loved learning about The Book of Two Ways, googling things in the book to see what was true. The beauty behind it is lovely.

The book actually had me internet searching quite a bit of stuff, and I learned a lot! So thanks for that Jodi! The story is one filled with love and regret, hope and friendship. Again, bring tissues as it’s sad at the same time as being wonderful.
You pulled at my heartstrings again Ms Picoult, Thank you x
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Dawn is a death doula, and spends her life helping people make the final transition peacefully. But when the plane she's on plummets, she finds herself thinking not of the perfect life she has, but the life she was forced to abandon fifteen years ago - when she left behind a career in Egyptology, and a man she loved. Against the odds, she survives, and the airline offers her a ticket to wherever she needs to get to - but the answer to that question suddenly seems uncertain. As the path of her life forks in two very different directions, Dawn must confront questions she's never truly asked: What does a well-lived life look like? What do we leave behind when we go? And do we make our choices, or do our choices make us? 

The plot for this is very different to Picoult's recent novels. It actually reminded me of Picoult's earlier novels which made me apprehensive and to be honest I did not think I would enjoy this. Well how wrong was I! I could not help but fall in love with everything about this. Picoult has such a beautiful, easy writing style that completely swept me away. I was engrossed in the read and captivated by the words and the events that were being told. 

What makes this read that little bit extra special though? Well, Picoult captures human emotions perfectly, I do not think I have read a novel where emotions are captured so simplistically, so perfectly and so incredibly moving. The characters in this go through every emotion imaginable, and as the captivated reader, I did too. Words cannot express how stunning this read is and how perfectly Picoult has captured, love, loss and human life. 

Which brings me nicely onto the characters. As I would expect from Picoult, the characters are perfectly crafted, and just like the plot, I could not help but fall in love with them. Their story is so pure and so realistic. Picoult does not need to use twists and tricks in this novel as what makes a better story than human life. I just know these characters will stay with me forever. 

The other aspect to this novel is Egyptology, a subject I have always had an interest in myself. I have seen comments that say this felt almost like a textbook at times but I disagree. I can see why readers have commented with this but enjoy it, take an interest and learn from the history weaved effortlessly into fiction. Personally I enjoyed this aspect and thought it brought more depth to the read however I agree it makes the read a lot heavier. 

'The Book of Two Ways' is another stunning read from Picoult. I did not think I would like it and I ended up loving it; the sign of a masterful author. The portrayal of human love and life left me speechless as I read this. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton for an advance copy.
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This book starts on fairly stable ground - you feel you know what you're getting. A woman (Dawn) is on a plane that's about to crash, or as it's named in the book a 'Planned Emergency' which is quite frankly a very staid term for a terrifying thing - she survives and then makes a decision that causes the narrative to split in two (hence partly why the novel has the title it does).

We're first taken to the Egypt of now and shown some of Dawn's past as a burgeoning Egyptologist, and how she first meets Wyatt (a former lover). It's here I get the first surprise in that this section is VERY detail heavy. There's a lot of information here about Egyptian death practices, hieroglyphics, tomb layouts and a myriad of other little details. It's in-depth to a level of almost being text book, and I can see how that could be off putting to some, but I found that it built the world for me, and rather than being a break point, made me more interested to keep going. I haven't read a Jodi Picoult novel before but I have since found out that this sort of level of research isn't unusual for her, so perhaps the regular reader will know what they're getting, I found it refreshing that in what is ostensibly a romance novel, we get some deep information of the ancient Egyptians. The description of Wyatt and Dawn's relationship is amusing and touching and feels quite real. 

After this section we move to Boston and the now, and see Dawn's husband Brian and her daughter Meret. This strand of the narrative is, at heart, a domestic drama about married life and how difficult it can be, with the added difficult of raising a teenager and going about your daily job at the same time. Brian is a quantum physicist, and once again we get a deluge of information about quantum mechanics, electrons and how they move, a discourse on the quantum system etc. It's similar information heavy, but it's cleverly as it ties neatly into the title of the novel and the themes of the book, the idea of alternate timelines and death (Schrodinger's Cat) and of whether we can change. 

We also learn about Dawn's job as a Death Doula.(sort of like a reverse midwife - assisting with death instead of birth) there's a neat line near the beginning of the novel that says "After thirteen years of this work, I thought I knew a lot about death, I was wrong" That's a neat summation of what the rest of this novel is about. We get an involved story of how Dawn started the job she did whilst visiting her mother in a hospice and how she has now ended up helping a woman called Win come to terms with her death.

A lot of this section is pretty bleak, though with some lovely writing - "An emotion like grief spills over the confines of those five letters". It's also a bit too close to home in these particular times - "Death is scary and confusing and painful, and facing it alone shouldn't be the norm".

These 3 narratives all come together at the end, neatly turning the alternative timeline trope on it's head by knitting the three together and giving a satisfying but still open ending.

There's a lot that's good in this novel. The characterisation of the main characters is strong, there is some lovely writing; particularly around the difficult subject of death and how hard it is to talk about it, and it's good to see a book that digs deep into it's subject matter with such detail. It takes the alternate timeline idea, and does something different with it, asking the reader to examine themselves in terms of their own choices. It is fiction that makes you think and that is always a sign of a good novel. 

However it's not without it's problems either, the three strands of the books whilst all good on their own, don't link together quite as they should. It feels that each could have been a story in it's own right (particularly the section with Win) and at the end there is a rush to fit them all together which loses some of the realism that had been built to this point and we have to suspend our belief a little at character's actions. It feels like there are so many ideas going on here that they couldn't all be kept in play, and a couple of the looser ends fall away as we approach the denouement. Some of the characterisation too is lacking, whilst the main cast is strong and relatable, the support particularly in the Egypt section seems tacked on and weak, ciphers to move the novel along. Unfortunately also whilst there is some very solid writing here, there is some cheesier writing too (perhaps par for the course in a romance novel) and it is here that the book falls into predictable territory at times and is worse off for it.

That being said, this is still an enjoyable, and surprising novel which dares to take on a difficult subject and treats it with great delicacy and care, whilst weaving a narrative around it. At one point Dawn says "I once read that every story is a love story, Love of a person, a country, a way of life. Which means, of course, that all tragedies are about losing what you love". This is a book about how death and tragedy can lead to a reevaluation of what life should be and how we should live it, and for that reason if nothing else, it is a book that people should read.
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'You have the luxury of time, until you don't - and then it becomes clear what's most important.'

Dawn has a good life: a fulfilling job as a death doula, a beautiful daughter (albeit one who is struggling through her teen years), and a successful marriage of 15 years with Brian. But Dawn's life could have been very different. Because 15 years ago, she left a burgeoning career as an Egyptologist when a family emergency called her home, and dragged her away from both her work on The Book of Two Ways and her relationship with the first love of her life, Wyatt. Dawn has never regretted her decision, or the direction her life has taken as a result of it, until she's on a plane about to crash. And the only thing she can think of is Wyatt, the man she left behind all those years ago. So when the airline offers to fly Dawn anywhere she needs to do, Dawn has a decision to make. What follows is an exploration of the two paths Dawn could choose to follow - water or land, Boston or Egypt, Wyatt or Brian...

This is a very tricky one to review. On the one hand, I'm a die hard Picoult fan, and I've never given one of her books less than 5 stars. On the other hand, this one is very different to any of her previous works, and it did take me a fair while to work my way through. 

Obviously, the writing is beautiful, and there are some really incredibly poignant moments, relating largely to Dawn's career as a death doula, something I've never heard of before but am now absolutely fascinated by. In fact, a book just about the experiences of a death doula would have been more than enough, although the sections set in Egypt were interesting. 

My main issue with it is just how much information there is in it. Obviously, there's a lot of philosophy relating to life and death that is referenced, and that is to be expected. As is a having a lot of information about Egyptology and archeology. However, there is a hell of a lot of the information about Egyptology that was a bit unnecessary, and I did end up skipping parts of it as it felt a bit irrelevant. Plus, Dawn's husband is a physicist, so there was so much information about quantum physics, and the multiverse theory, and other physics stuff that I couldn't even begin to understand. It just felt very dense at times, and it was like there were whole sections that could be taken out without affecting the story at all. 

The main heart of the book - Dawn, her family life, and the decision she has to make between her past and her present - was as good as you would expect from a Picoult novel. The sections relating to Dawn's work as a death doula were heartbreaking, poignant, and beautiful, serving as reminders of how we should all embrace whatever time we have left and strive to live a life we're proud of. However, the information heavy element of the novel meant that I did struggle a bit to get into this. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the book, but I felt like the high level of academic information contained within this book did lessen the intensity of the emotional aspects of the novel. It was almost like two books combined into one - the actual novel, and then a more textbook like accompaniment! All in all, not my favourite of her work, but I would definitely read her next book, and there are many who would enjoy this book if there already have a good knowledge of the subject area. 

3.5 rounded up to 4. 

Disclaimer - I recieved an advance reading from NetGalley and the publisher. This has not affected my review in any way, and all opinions are my own.
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When Dawn survives a plane crash she decides to revisit the life in Egypt she left fifteen years before. She now has to decide which of her two lives to live:: her family life in Boston or the love she left behind while working as an Egyptologist in Cairo.
This is her book of two ways: as Picoult explains, her novel is about ‘the construct of time, and love, and life, and death.’
Dawn works as a death doula - someone who is with a person to support them as they are dying. But which of her lives will she let go?
I’ve read several Picoult novels and this is a bit different. Picoult’s son is an Egyptologist and her interest in this area is passionate. 
I found the historical detail a bit much, but it’s also an ambitious and touching novel that runs deeper than some of her others, and definitely feels more personal.
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I love Jodi Picoult and have read everything she's ever written so I was over the moon to bag an advance review copy of her latest offering. "The Book Of The Ways" has various themes. It shines a light on life and death, relationships, choices and the complications of love. It also touches on parenting children who fall outside of what is considered "the norm", art, time and quantum physics. The section on the science of tears is fascinating! There are passages within Picoult's pages that took my breath away with their beautiful construction. Despite all of this, I struggled a bit. I'm not particularly interested in Egyptology so some sections I found a bit dry and my attention wandered. However, it really is extremely well-written and I did enjoy it for the most part.
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I have never read a Jodi Picoult novel before which is why I was intrigued to try this one out. And I’m really glad I did, because this is a magnificent novel exploring ‘what if’. What if I had made different choices in my life? And a wonderful dose of ancient Egypt on the side.

It follows Dawn McDowell, who used to be an Egyptologist working on the coffin texts of the Middle Kingdom, one of which, ‘The Book of Two Ways’, is an ancient Egyptian map of the underworld, she was especially interested in - it shows two paths, one over land and one over water, separated by a lake of fire. Fast forward to the present, Dawn is a ‘death doula’, otherwise known as a death midwife, a job which entails helping the terminally ill prepare for death. She left behind Egyptology - and an intense romance with her fellow Egyptologist, Wyatt, in order to go home and look after her mother, who was dying. From there, Dawn fell into another life from the one she had been expecting - we follow both Dawn in Boston and Dawn in Egypt, her two paths and possibly two destinies. The book deals with ideas of missed opportunities, choices and fate: Dawn must consider whether she is on the right path, and if it’s too late to change; with a little bit of parallel universe theory as Dawn contemplates these issues. The end was intense, I may need a few days to recover! I’m not sure if I liked the ultimate ending but I have come away feeling that this was a terrific read, regardless.

I really enjoyed the parts set in Egypt where Dawn was doing work in newly discovered tombs, it was a fascinating blend of history alongside romance, and a philosophical exploration of the choices we make. I think that readers who enjoyed The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak would also enjoy this novel, as it reminded me a little of that in terms of the themes being explored.

My thanks to @Hodderbooks and #netgalley for the arc to review.
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Dawn is one of 36 survivors in a plane crash. When she's asked 'can we fly you anywhere?', she has a decision to make. Does she return to her life in Boston or return to Egypt where she left unfinished business over fifteen years ago.

The Book Of Two Ways is a stunning novel that kept me guessing and gasping until the end. Jodi manages to take you on a journey of first love, what ifs and death that keeps you gripped all the way through. I was desperately rooting for Dawn to finish what she started in Egypt. The twists and turns in this novel had me going right back to the start to read it again. Extraordinary!
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