My Sister's Keeper
Although one can skip around the Internet picking up bits of
information instantly, there is still a great to be said for the
novel. Whether read in a paper version or on something like a Kindle,
it allows a richness and depth that eludes more electronically
generated content. In my mind, it is a full course meal as opposed to
say Doritos and an energy drink. A truly great writer, whether
immortal William Shakespeare or today's Jodi Picoult can help us,
through the lens of fiction, see situations and people from a
Until I read Picoult's My Sister's Keeper for the second time I
never fully understood my mother or forgave myself. The first time
when I rushed through it for book club it hit scarily close to home.
The second time, years later, the familiarity was more comfortable and
reading it slowly was like adjusting a microscope. Issues in my life
that has remained blurry came sharply into focus.
Anna is a thirteen-year-old who is suing her parents for medical
emancipation. She was genetically engineered and carried to term to
donate stem cells to her sister. After other materials such as white
cells and bone marrow have been harvested from her body. Now her
parents are asking her to give a kidney.
Sara is the mother of Anna, Kate, and their brother, Jesse.
Ever since Kate was diagnosed with a rare and vicious form of leukemia
her life has been a desperate fight to save Kate's life. Even the
most promising remissions do not last, and with every relapse there
are fewer and fewer options. Now Kate's body is threatened not only
by cancer, but also by organ damage from both illness and treatment.
Her kidneys have shut down.
Sara, a lawyer, is also representing the family in court,
basically opposing her younger daughter's motion.
Brian, the father, and Jesse round out the family. Brian, a
fire fighter with an exceptional record of rescuing people from
disasters, is often tormented by his inability to save one of the
people he loves the most. He is also a star gazer who comes up with
some pretty amazing insights. Jesse, family black sheep, is the
family member who most clearly understands Anna.
Campbell and Julia, respectively Anna's lawyer and guardian ad
litum, must navigate the complex, unpredictable, and constantly
changing dynamics of this case. They have a history also which adds
yet another layer of complexity.
Told in alternating chapters in the voices of the major
characters (with the exception of Kate), and going back and forth
quite coherently between present and back story, My Sister's Keeper is
a masterpiece of both compelling plot and character development. I
predict that even readers who must keep a hankie nearby won't want to
put the book down.
On a personal note, when my sister almost lost her life from spinal
meningitis and emerged with severe brain damage I was placed into the
role of the invisible child who was never to give a minute's trouble
and gradually become my sister's keeper. Reading Sara's chapters
helped me realize how, between Harriet's needs and her career, my own
mother's life was a constant series of crises faced alone, even before
the divorce, leaving her no time or energy for anything else. Anna
helped me realize that it's ok and normal to want to be seen as one's
own person rather than the sibling of. I also learned that even if
you love the other person you can have these feelings which do not
make you an evil person.
A great big shout out goes out to all families caught in such complex
and often painful relationships.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod