Thursday, April 30, 2009

My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult

Summary: Can a parent love too much? Or is too much never enough?

Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate - a life and a role that she has never questioned… until now. Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister - and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable, a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves. A provocative novel that raises some important ethical issues, My Sister's Keeper is the story of one family's struggle for survival at all human costs and a stunning moral parable for all time.
(Review taken from the back of the book, Cover photo found on Google books)

My Review: "When I was little the great mystery to me wasn't how babies were made, but why." So reads the first sentence in this stunning novel by Jodi Picoult and it summarizes the book rather nicely. Anna was designed in a tube to be the perfect match for her sister, Kate, who has been battling a rare form of leukemia since the age of 2. It was originally planned that Anna's umbilicus would provide cells causing Kate to go into remission. This works for a short time but then Kate relapses and Anna has to donate lymphocytes. This cycle has continued throughout Anna's life; first blood, then marrow and now it's a kidney her sister needs. Anna has finally had enough and wants the acknowledgment that her existence is independent from her sister and she is ready to have some say in what happens to her body. The kicker is that Kate is dying and doctors don't feel like she is strong enough to survive the transplant her mother so desperately wants anyway.

Jodi Picoult deals with the controversial issues of designer babies and stem cell research throughout her novel. She does this in a manner that cuts right to the heart by telling the family's story. Each chapter lets you inside another members head, giving you a taste of the personalities and letting you share their feelings. The reader gets a feel of where Picoult stands on these issues, yet Picoult presents both sides to the story, proving that no matter which side of the fence you stand on the slope is slippery. I love that the author leaves out media views and outsider feelings about this case from the story. This way she allows for the reader to form their own opinions based on an insider view of the family dynamics.

This story had a strong emotional draw to it. Though I felt from the beginning that there was no way this story could close happily, I could not put it down. It was a rather depressing story but one that floods the reader with what-if questions. There is a heartbreaking twist in the final pages of the book. I can't say that I enjoyed this ending but will admit that it was completely unexpected and it gave me chills. After this twist the book closes quickly and on further examination I found that the ending did not tie in with the prologue, which was somewhat disappointing.

There were a few other things which held me back from giving this novel 5 stars. First, there are several spots in the story that feel too unrealistic. As with all her other novels, I feel Picoult once again tried too hard to tie all her characters together. I certainly could have done without the relationship between the attorney and guardian ad litem, as it didn't really add that much to the story. I also found the many coincidences to be somewhat distracting from the main story the author is trying to tell.

That main story line, however, is told brilliantly. The emotions I felt during reading this story are sure to stick with me for some time to come. I think that this would be an excellent book club pick as it would lead to some heated discussions. This is a novel I will be recommending to many (along with a heeded warning to expect tears).

On a side note, a movie based on this book will be out on June 26th. I'm not sure I want to see it.
My Rating: 4.5 Stars, definitely one of my favorite Jodi Picoult novels

If I had to sum it up in one sentence it would be: A book you must read, just make sure you have a box of Kleenex handy.


Sweet Em said...

Sigh...I just don't get the Jodi Picoult phenom.

It was after reading this book that I declared my abhorrence of novels that purposefully manipulate your emotions. In this case it was the surprise ending, which I don't think added anything to the story and was put in JUST to make you cry. Rude.

Christine said...

We just read this as a book club and I loved it. The ending was a bit of a shocker but, when you read Picoult you have to expect it.

Justin and Carson said...

I saw this movie with Heather. THEY CHANGED THE PLOT and not in a good way. It was like they started out following the book and then about halfway through decided, "let's do it like THIS". So the movie was "inspired by" this novel.
If Em thinks there was emotional manipulation going on in the book, well that was the movie, pretty much 100%.

Sweet Em said...

Well that is good to know. I'm very curious how they could have changed the plot to make it worse than the original (that sounds more vicious than it should, but I'm truly curious...)

Heather said...

I agree that the movie was more inspired by the novel but would disagree that it was changed in a bad way. Due to time constraints they had to leave some out, such as the brother's struggles (which added to the story) and the relationship between the guardian ad litem and the attorney (which was very distracting in the book). I liked how the movie ended MUCH better than the book. I agree that the movie plays 100% on emotional manipulation.


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