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.


Maw Books said...

I also just recently discovered Picoult! I just read Nineteen Minutes and am now starting The Tenth Circle which I'm reading for an online book club through CafeMom. I have My Sister's Keeper on my shelf and I've been told that it's Picoult's best one. I'm looking forward to it. I want to read it this month but I have way to many books checked out from the library that I might not be able to get to it until next month. I keep looking at it and saying, I wish, I wish.

Jeane said...

I could have done without the inclusion of Julia as well, but I did appreciate the subplot of son/father. It showed how her illness affected the entire family. I felt like the ending was really contrived to tug at my sympathy, and that annoyed me. Otherwise, it was a very compelling book!

Cath said...

This is the only one of Picoult's that I've read but I enjoyed it very much. I thought it was skilfully written but like you could have done without Julia, it was distracting. I was fine with the detail about the brother though, I felt like weeping for him. The twist at the end was totally unexpected! Very clever. I have Plain Truth, set among the Amish, coming soon.

Trish said...

I'm glad you liked this one. It has a special place in my heart because my sister was diagnosed with kidney failure when she was 18 and a few months later had a transplant (from my mother). There was a time when my parents thought that I would be the best match (I was 20 at the time).

One of the things that I loved most about this book was the different perspectives. While Jesse's portion did start to wear on my nerves a little I was able to relate on some level. I hope you continue to enjoy her works--her new book came out on Tuesday! I haven't gotten it yet, but I'm reading Salem Falls right now.

alisonwonderland said...

My Sister's Keeper was the first Jodi Picoult novel i read, and i enjoyed it so much, i read nine more of her novels last year. i'm definitely going to read them all eventually!

BookGal said...

maw - I've never heard of CafeMom. Thanks for introducing me.

Jeane - I agree about Julia. I liked the brother but not the arsonist subplot.

cath - That one is on my TBR pile too.

trish - I liked Salem Falls too. I didn't know there was a new one. I had wondered if the emotions were valid in this one. Thanks for confirming it and now I'm wondering how your sister's story ended.

Alison - WOW! You really got hooked!

Carrie said...

I've heard of this book but haven't felt compelled to read it -- until your review! I appreciated you giving the stregnths and weaknesses of the book to help me know more what to expect. Nice touch!

Thanks for sharing. I NOW have a desire to go out and find a copy of this book!

Trish said...

Sister is doing great! It's been about 6 years since the transplant, and she's very healthy. She didn't have all the problems that Kate did, though. Mainly just her kidneys. :)

BookGal said...

carrie - leave me a link after you read it ... I'd love to hear what you think.

trish - Thanks for the update. I'm glad your sister did so well. It's nice to hear how well these things do work.

Anonymous said...

I flew through this book and I kept having to ask myself what should be done differently, in the case of Anna's parents, but Picoult managed the materiial very well. I liked the sub-plot because at least, there, you had something that could end well. I kind of hated the twist at the end though because it felt like Picoult was taking something that could have been good and doing anything just to ruin it. I think that is my one complaint.

Dewey said...

I've only read a couple Picoult books (this one was my favorite)and I agree with what you said about things feeling contrived. I found that very much to be true in Vanishing Acts, and noticed it a lot more than I did in this one.

gautami tripathy said...

My favourite Picoult is Salem Fall!

BTW, I have linked your review to my review!