Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

book 3 of 10 for the Book Awards Challenge II

Rating: 3/5

I've been hearing about this book for years. My sister even told me the entire plot at some point in time, although I didn't remember how it ended (thank goodness). Even though I knew the idea of the book before I read it, I wasn't prepared for what an emotional and intellectual battle it would be.

For the two people who haven't yet read it, the story is thus: Kate has a rare form of cancer. In an effort to save her life, her parents use IVF technology to create a baby that is a perfect genetic match, so that the baby's cord blood could, theoretically, save Kate's life. Turns out, the cord blood bought Kate time, but in the end, wasn't enough. That baby, now a 13 year old named Anna, has been used as a "donor" her entire life - taking her blood, her bone marrow and now - her parents want her to donate a kidney. And Anna's had enough.

She files a lawsuit against her parents - suing for the right to make her own medical decisions. You can see how this book is full of ethical, nearly impossible to answer, questions. And Picoult uses one of my favorite narrative tactics and writes each chapter telling the story from a different character's point of view - the dad's, the mom's, Anna's, her brother Jesse's, her lawyer's. Most noticeably, though, is the lack of Kate's point of view. We learn what we need to know about her from her family's eyes and experiences. Picoult paints a well-rounded picture of this family and these characters. They are fleshed out, flawed and entirely human. People make bad choices, they doubt and they struggle. My opinion on how to solve everyone's problems changed every time I read someone else's view on the issue - everyone has valid concerns that can't be discounted.

The only flaws in the book, for me, were the sarcastic humor (which fell flat and didn't appeal to me) and the foul mouths of several of the characters, including the 13 year old, which just grated on me. There were also a few things in the end that stretched my ability to "suspend my disbelief," considering the realistic nature of the story. You'll probably know it when you read it - it has to do with the father's job and his son.

Despite those couple things, this book made me think and it made me cry. I can't say it ever made me laugh or feel warm and fuzzy, necessarily, but the ending surprised me and pulled everything together in a way that I didn't quite expect. For the emotional punch and the ethical issues, this book is worth reading.

7 comments:

Trish said...

I had no idea how this one could possibly end in a way that was satisfying, but somehow the ending did seem such (even though I was sobbing at 3 am when I finished!). I think with Picoult you have to just overlook the flaws--they are certainly there, but I like her books anyway.

Anna said...

No one's perfect, I'm just glad that despite the flaws, Picoult's books are page-turners. Did you know this book is being made into a movie?

--Anna (Diary of an Eccentric)

susan said...

We read this book for our book club a few years ago. I don't remember everything. But I do remember I didn't like the end. The author gave us some ethical issues to discuss. Another one that I read from Jodi Picoult is Nineteen Minutes. This was a hard one to read because of the subject matter, a school shooting but I think every teacher or anyone that works with the school should read this. I had a hard time, because I was a parent of a HS student.

Megs said...

Jodi is one of my favorite authors. I was encaptivated by My Sister's Keeper. Funny how different books appeal to different people!

bermudaonion said...

I liked this book, but I didn't like the ending. :(

erin sheely said...

I totally struggled over the ethical issues. I thought it was really worth reading so I'm glad you liked it.

Michelle said...

We just talked about this in our book club tonight. There were mixed views, but it was good. We all seemed to have issues with "Mom". Her tunnel vision was hard to deal with. I was not prepared for the ending. One thing that was pointed out (that I didn't pick up on) was that the intro was written by "Kate". Each character had their own font. That first entry and the last one, which was Kate's was the same font. Reading the intro again knowing that was insightful.

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