book 3 of 10 for the Book Awards Challenge II
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.