Monday, March 3, 2008
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
As many of you have read, I just recently discovered Jodi Picoult and just had to read another of her books. Some of you recommended this one, and I can see why. I also read it for the A to Z Challenge.
This is the story of Anna and her sister, Kate. Anna is thirteen, and her sister is sixteen and dying of a rare form of leukemia. Anna was conceived, via assisted reproductive fertility, as a perfect genetic match for Kate. Over time, Anna had donated blood and bone marrow to her sister. At the point the story starts, Kate's kidneys are failing, and Anna has been told that she is to donate a kidney. Anna hires an attorney, Campbell Alexander, to sue for the right to make her own medical decisions.
STRENGTHS OF MY SISTER'S KEEPER: Picoult is an excellent story teller. This story is filled with complexity of plot and character. First, Anna is thirteen and allowed to have all the complexity and angst of a thirteen year old girl. Her mother, Sara, is the most compelling character in the book for me. I can absolutely understand all the actions she's taken to save Kate, and can see how it could become all consuming. Yet, I never doubted that she loved Anna, or her son. It was clear how Kate's illness had colored every family decision and, ultimately, impacted the parent's marriage and their relationships with their children. There were times that Sara made decisions I questioned and withheld information from Kate or Anna. I don't even want to think about being in that same position.
Kate was also a fascinating character because she wasn't a maudlin stereotype of a dying child. She had spunk, and I felt that she truly loved Anna. At one point in the story, Sara realizes that you don't "have" children, but you are given the opportunity to be a part of their lives and development. What a wonderful realization!
The parallel story of the lawyer was interesting, but not as compelling as the main plot. Campbell is probably the character who changes the most in the story. He is the one who was truly affected on a deeply, personal level by the moral questions in the story. He became our "everyman," the character I tended to look for to see how to feel and react since I couldn't always trust the reactions of the Fitzgerald family.
WEAKNESSES OF MY SISTER'S KEEPER: There was a subplot involving Julia, Campbell's college love and Anna's court-appointed guardian, and her sister. This felt a bit contrived, and I didn't think Picoult needed to push the sister comparison on the reader. Also, there was a separate subplot involving Jesse, the brother, and his firefighter father. Again, I understood that Jesse was damaged by his sister's illness, but, again, felt that Picoult didn't need to beat me over the head with it.
Overall, I'd give this one four and 1/2 stars. It lost 1/2 a star for the multiple subplots. The main story of Anna and Kate was compelling, thought-provoking, and emotionally shattering. I will tell you that I cried for the last twenty pages. I'd love to hear what other people thought of this one.