My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult

My mum told me to read this.  I love my darling mum.  She must never, never, never become sick.  And neither must my father or any of my sisters.  They must stay in perfect health until they are very, very old, and then I will accept that as part of the circle of life they must die peacefully in their sleep after first ringing me up to say a satisfactory goodbye.

That is the plan.  Deviance will not be tolerated.

I really don’t like thinking about my family members dying.  Because of Jodi Picoult, I thought about it a lot last night when I was finishing up My Sister’s Keeper, and so I cried and cried and cried and cried until I fell asleep.  (I was very tired; when my alarm went off, I was dreaming about hanging out with Social Sister, and she said, “Don’t listen to that stupid news guy!  Let’s watch The Office,” and I said, “No, no, I have to wake up,” and she said, “Let’s watch Buffy!  Hey, let’s get pizza from Papa Murphy’s and have a great big Buffy and Angel marathon!” and I said, “But my alarm is going off,” and she said, “Oh, I forgot to tell you!  Anna Banana’s in town!  We can all three eat pizza and watch Buffy and Angel together!  Just like old times!”  And then I realized what my subconscious was trying to do, and I think it was a pretty cheap trick, frankly, pretending that my much-missed sister was back in town just to keep me asleep.)

Er, but back to Ms. Picoult’s book.  It’s all about a girl called Anna (hmph) who was conceived in order to be a donor for her older sister Kate, who has a particularly virulent form of leukemia; she has donated various body parts her whole life and is now (she’s thirteen) being asked for a kidney.  So she goes to a lawyer and asks him to represent her so that she can become medically emancipated from her parents and make her own decisions about her kidneys.  And quite rightly.

The story’s told from the viewpoints of all the involved parties – Anna, each of her parents, her older brother Jesse, the lawyer in question (Campbell Alexander), and her appointed guardian ad litem (Julia Romano, who has a History with Campbell Alexander).  I was surprised by how naturally Jodi Picoult writes; everything flows much more nicely than I was expecting, and the characters are all sympathetic.  I started reading this because I stopped by my parents’ house to tell my parents some good news and then we decided to go get dinner to celebrate but we couldn’t go until six and I didn’t have The Hills at Home with me so I swiped this from Mumsy and read it instead.  I read it for an hour there, and then when we were done with dinner, I washed my hair and read it until I was done.  In spite of being very tired.  So it is a good book, and a most absorbing read.

However – spoilers to follow – there were a few things I thought were a bit device-y.  Namely, the whole plotline with Campbell Alexander’s top-secret medical condition that caused him to break up with Julia even though he truly, truly loved her.  That felt contrived.  I mean, I’m not necessarily against those hurt-them-to-save-them plotlines, as long as you’re saving them from, I don’t know, getting shot, or eaten by you in werewolf form.  In this case he didn’t want her to have to stop being a free spirit – which even then wouldn’t have been so bad (because young people are stupid and do dramatic gesture things), but it got made into this big mystery that you’re wondering about all through the book.  (I mean, I wasn’t – I checked the end – but other people might have been.)  And it’s a bit soapy – the rest of the book is all with the tension and the moral dilemmas, and this plotline took away from that.

Okay, and can we discuss the end for a second?  I knew the ending before I started reading, because my mother told me, but I still felt cheated once I got there.  Here you have this book all about making choices and living with the consequences, about a kid whose life has been eaten up by the needs of her sick sibling and her struggles to form an independent identity, and then at the moment of victory, she dies and they take her kidney after all?  Oh, it was so unfair to the rest of the book.  The natural end to this book is, Kate dies.  Of course she dies!  Anna doesn’t donate the kidney, and Kate dies; Anna does donate the kidney, and Kate dies anyway; they find another donor and for a while it’s a miracle but then Kate dies anyway.  Grrr.

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5 thoughts on “My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult

  1. Definitely read it! It’s a quick read – only takes a few hours to read, so it’s not a substantial time commitment, and very interesting.

  2. To me, the end just didn’t go with the rest of the book. The book explores the consequences of a family giving itself entirely to the needs of one of its members, and the ending just didn’t align with that. I found it jarring, and I felt like it was designed to shock rather than to end the book reasonably. So I didn’t care for it. But I’ll be reading more of her books.

  3. I’m so with you. It’s like Picoult found the whole moral dilemma/spiritual crisis thing too exhausting and just went to sleep and had a happy dream instead.

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