My Sister's Keeperby Published 01 Feb 2005
|My Sister's Keeper.pdf|
|Publisher||Washington Square Press|
My Sister's Keeper Ebook Description
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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 preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate—a life and a role that she has never challenged... 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 parable for all time.
My Sister's Keeper Reviews
Have you ever read a book that really pissed you off? Pissed you off so much all you could do was rant about it until everyone told you to just shut up? This is that book for me.
Picoult's dialogue is excellent, but her characters annoy me and the ending of this book was such a cop-out I almost wrote her an angry letter about it, but decided against it, as she'd never read it anyway.
Basically, "My Sister's Keeper" is about a family with three kids - I forget their real names, so I'm giving them fake ones: Token Boy Child, Leukemia, and Spare Parts. Mom and Dad find out about Leukemia's unfortunate diagnosis when she's just two, so they decide to have another baby - not to replace Leukemia when she inevitably bites it, but to provide Leukemia with spare parts for organ transplants. Spare Parts gets tired of being held back by her sister's needs - and in turn, Leukemia gets tired of holding her sister back; Spare Parts isn't allowed to go to overnight camp and is being forced to quit playing her favorite sport because Leukemia needs a new kidney. Spare Parts goes to a lawyer in an attempt to get medical emancipation from her parents. She winds up winning it, but dies in a car crash. Mom pulls the plug immediately, Leukemia gets a new kidney, and - even better - Leukemia is magically cured of her illness altogether. Also, there was a stupid subplot about the lawyer and social worker falling in love.
The mother character annoyed me the most here; she didn't love her daughters equally, and it showed. It really showed. She loved Leukemia the way you love a child. She loved Spare Parts the way you love that child's trust fund or college savings. She played favorites and made no attempt to hide it.
This whole book infuriated me - the very idea of having another kid just so your sick child can have her own personal organ bank sickens me. It really does. You're supposed to have a child because you will love that child, not to fill the needs of another child.
**If you're planning on reading this book, don't read my review. I give away the horribly disappointing ending. On second thought, don't read this book, read my review.**
I know several people who have read this book, so I decided to give it a go. I was immediately intrigued by the subject of the book. The Fitzgerald family has one daughter, Kate, dying of kidney failure. The kidney failure is a result of her weary body's 14 year battle with a rare form of leukemia. Their other daughter, Anna, is a perfect donor match to Kate. The fact that Anna is a perfect match is no surprise considering Anna was conceived with Kate in mind. Anna was no accident; doctors specifically chose the embryo that would be a perfect genetic match for Kate's needs.
Now thirteen years later, and several procedures later, Anna is refusing to donate a kidney. She seeks the legal help of Campbell Alexander, and together they petition the court for Anna's medical emancipation from her parents. Anna's argument is compelling. Simply, she argues "it never stops." When Anna was born they gave her cord blood to Kate. Later Anna gave lymphocytes, then bone marrow, then granulocytes, then peripheral blood stem cells. And now she is expected to give a kidney. Anna feels like she only exists to perpetuate Kate's existence. At this point doctors don't even believe Kate would survive a kidney transplant, but her parents still want the procedure done.
This is a fascinating plot, since there are no clear cut right/wrong answers. How do you weight the lives of these two young girls? The author came up with a brilliant grey pool of possibilities.
But the book sank.
While the writing is exceptional in small burst, it's most often barely digestible and often painful. The story is told from each characters' point of view, and this leads to a lot of flashbacks and unnecessary digressions. The flashbacks of the mother, Sara, are necessary as she tells the history of Kate's illness. But were also given a side plot between Campbell and Julia, Anna's guardian ad litem. And I promise that the author's writing takes a sudden dive for the 'painful' end of the spectrum when Julia is speaking. I was bored with the lame history of the high school romance between Campbell and Julia. They had a sudden breakup, and now 15 years later they still secretly pine for one another - blah. Let me first say that if my high school sweetheart broke my heart and I still haven't gotten over it FIFTEEN YEARS LATER, slap the shit out me!
The plot is stupid: Julia was the poor girl that ended up in a rich school her oh-so-loving parents desperately got her into. She's the rebel with pink hair and no friends. Campbell is drawn to her because apparently no other girl in his rich kid school thought to dye their hair. Apparently rich kids don't do such crazy things.
What was even worse was the dialogue between Julia and Campbell or Julia and her sister. A lot of horrible one-liners; just awful dialogue in general. I blame Picoult's editor. Why wasn't she told to cut all this crap out?
The story when told through Jesse, the 18-year-old delinquent brother of Anna and Kate, is also generally ridiculous. We're given more cheesy dialogue and digressions that add very little to the main plot.
Picoult could've easily cut out about 200 pages and had a much better story.
Although the stories of Jesse, Campbell, and Julia are irritating, nothing is more infuriating than how the author ties up the story in the end. She creates this wonderful dilemma but (and here's where I get nasty) doesn't have the talent to pull it off. Instead of wading around in the murkiness of deciding between the possibility of saving one life (if only for a short while) and respecting the life and decisions of another, Picoult takes the easy way out. When on the stand, Anna now explains that she not only started the petition for personal or selfish reasons, but because Kate secretly asked her too. While this might be a very probable scenario in real life - a chronically ill patient simply wanting it to all end - I was interested in seeing where Picoult could take us without this shortcut. The starting topic no longer becomes such a controversy when the recipient doesn't want what the donor is offering. That's right, we learn that Anna was willing to donate her kidney until Kate told her not to. (Can you see the satin bow coming out, about to be neatly tied around all of this?)
In the end, Anna is granted medical emancipation from her parents. Even still, Anna considers giving her kidney to Kate. On one hand she doesn't want to lose her sister, but another part of her realizes her life may be better once Kate is dead. But we never learn what Anna decides in the end, because the author commits the ultimate cop out. She kills Anna off. Anna gets into a horrible car accident where she's conveniently made brain dead, but still physically alive so her organs can be harvested. That's right! Kate gets her kidney after all and lives! This ending was complete bullshit. The ethical and moral questions that set this book up were abandoned in the end. In the end, no tough decisions needed to be made.
Eight years later, Kate is alive and well. Her parents, although deeply effected by Anna's death, have managed to pull themselves back together. We're told that Brian, the father, had a drinking problem for a while after Anna's death, but not to worry - he clawed his way back to the family. Good for him. And Jesse the badass teenager who made moonshine in his room, dropped LSD, and who, oh by the way, was an ARSONIST, is now a decorated police officer. How nice; glad that whole setting elementary schools on fire stage passed for him.
I felt that throughout the book the author was making a case for Anna and how invisible she felt in her own family. Anna desperately wanted to be in charge of her own life. Anna wanted to be seen as an individual, not Kate's lifeline. Instead of Kate always being giving a chance, Anna wanted a chance to become her own person. In the end, her creator, her author, didn't even care enough to find out what that might mean.
I hate novels where parenting is questioned, simply because I too often find myself thinking, “Well I would never do THAT.” I then have to do the whole knock-on-wood routine and hope that I didn’t just invite divine retribution for being too judgmental. So it was with Jodi Picoult’s novel My Sister’s Keeper. After reading the summary of the novel, I knew that I would never make the choices that the parents shown did. After reading the novel, I found myself questioning what I might really do if my child was facing death.
In case you missed the summary, My Sister’s Keeper is the story of Anna, a thirteen year old girl genetically conceived to be a match for her leukemia-positive sister. Within minutes of her birth, she was a donor for Kate, sharing her cord blood to save her sister’s life. By the time she is thirteen, when the novel takes place, she has been in the hospital almost as much as Kate, donating things such as blood and bone marrow. After being asked to donate a kidney, she seeks legal emancipation from her parents. And so the story begins.
One of the things that bugged me was the chapter-by-chapter switch of the point of view. It was very well handled and, once I got past the irritation stage, I had to admit that it helped the story along. And so we skip through the minds of Anna, her lawyer, her court-appointed guardian ad litem, her brother, her father, and her mother – in short, everyone close to Anna except her sister. Each of these perspectives is given in the present, with the notable exception of her mother. Instead, we trace the mother’s path of learning that her daughter has leukemia, and what decisions led her (and Anna) to the current moment. This, too, was initially annoying, but proved well-chosen; I’m not sure the same impact would have been made if we simply had the mom looking back. It would have been far easier to judge her at that point than it was to see her experiencing her pain.
In fact, it was from Sara’s perspective that I learned the most, and that I questioned myself. If my young daughter, the light of my life, was threatened with death, how far would I go to save her? I don’t think that I honestly would have even thought up the idea of conceiving a child specifically for that purpose, but what do you do once the idea has been planted? Furthermore, it is clear that Sara loves and cherishes Anna, even as she worries incessantly over Katie. True, she neglects her, but she also neglects her son, who had been born prior to the diagnosis, turning most of her attention to her sick child. And though this also made me pass judgement, it also made me wonder – would I be able to balance my attention on all my children if one were struggling through a life-long illness? How easy would it be to make small decisions that hurt the others to save the one?
In short, I hated this well-written, well-developed, well-plotted book because it made me think. The moral and religious side of me rejects the notion of a test-tube baby conceived for a specific purpose, but the mother in me wonders. If my child were starving, how easy would it be to remain true to my moral perspectives and not steal (assuming, of course, the government weren’t around to save me)? If someone threatened my child, how far would I go to protect them? In short, when it comes down to crunch time, how true would I stay?
To fall asleep, I have to assure myself that I would, of course, be perfect in all things. And then knock soundly on the nearest wood, and pray I never have to find out.
Spoiler Alert. This review contains spoilers.
I hated this book so much. I only kept reading it because I had to find out why Campbell, the lawyer, had a service dog, since he kept that such a secret.
I hated the clichés (Julia chose just that moment to crash through the door… Anna chose that precise moment to speak up… Rita chose this moment to gag on bad writing…).
I hated the overwrought melodrama. Everything was just so saturated with heavy-handed tear-jerking prose that the book was soggy and just about dripping. About halfway through the book, I started skimming it, looking for dialogue relevant to the plot. Brian’s metaphors about fire and Sara’s reminiscing about the kids’ childhoods and Campbell’s backflashes about Julia and Julia being pathetic in every possible way and Anna’s cluelessness just got so very dull. If I was ever to find out why Campbell had that dog, then I needed to get through the material faster. Putting the book down to groan out loud every few paragraphs was taking too long.
The characters were two-dimensional and irritating. They really were just like paper dolls, given name tags, dressed up in stereotypes and given lines to say (and melodramatic thoughts to spill out). It was like, This is the mom and she’s a big martyr who puts her children first all the time… she’s a GOOD mother, she just got blinded by trying to be too good, so she seems kind of bad now. But we’ll be on her side in the end because of her deep insight. Waggle mom paper doll and have her blah, blah, blah and then Over here is the Big Bad Lawyer doll… ooooh, he’s a ruthless go-getter with a hazy past, but he’ll have some secrets to pull out at the end so we’ll realize he’s a decent, stand up guy after all. Waggle lawyer paper doll and have him blah blah blah, and so on.
The plot was all right through all of that until the big Law and Order courtroom twist at the end. That was just a convenient trick to get out of actually trying to find a solution for such a dilemma. She worked it up to such a point that there was no way out that would sit well with an audience, there was no good way to wrap it up, so she pulled a rabbit out of a hat. Then she went a step further and did something that I guess some might find bold, but it just made me shout a stream of obscenities and then made me thankful that I had just skimmed the second half of the book and didn’t really invest in it at all. Otherwise, I would have been furious with such an ending.
This is the second Jodi Picoult book I’ve tried to read. I didn’t like the other one either (Vanishing Acts), so I guess I won’t be reading anything else by this author.
Anyone who has a kid has probably, at one point or another, battled with them at bedtime. That's what I do, every night. There is much yelling, crying, begging and pleading. It's horrible.
Kid #3 is out like a light, so she's not part of the problem. Kid #2 puts up a good fight, whining and tantrum throwing, but eventually she succumbs to her sleepiness. Kid #1, however... well, she's another story altogether.
At night, she's afraid of everything and feels that if she sleeps something will get her. But she's not invincible, she has to sleep sometime. So after being assured that she's safe, she'll lay down and relax--this can only happen in the master bedroom, because in her mind the master bedroom is safe from everything.
Once she's been lulled into blissful unconsciousness either me or my husband will move her to her room. Typically this goes off without a hitch. But every once in a great while she wakes up and totally freaks out, because she realizes she was tricked. By her own parents, no less. She feels betrayed. She doesn't believe us when we swear that we won't move her again (because we will and she knows it). And so, because of her her general mistrust, her fear of everything, not to mention all the sobbing, she is awake for another couple of hours, at least. The whole situation is very dramatic and it totally sucks.
How does this relate to My Sister's Keeper? It doesn't--not exactly but I do have a point. Let me explain. I spent years avoiding Jody Picoult's books like the plague. They frightened me. I don't know why. Perhaps it's the fact that every woman over thirty can't stop raving about Jody Picoult books, which means they're probably not my 'cuppa tea'. It may even have something to do with the fact that the woman has the ability to crank these insanely thick books out like she's some sort of writing machine from hell. I don't know, it just doesn't seem natural. Besides, no author is capable of writing so fast. At least, no good author can do such a thing, amirite?
But finally, after being assured that Jody is actually quite talented, that her books are intriguing and worthwhile, I relented and picked up Nineteen Minutes. And you know what? It wasn't horrible. Actually, I kind of liked it. Alright, I admit it--I liked it a lot. It wasn't the best book ever, but it was the sort of book that makes you think, stays with you after you're finished reading it. *shrugs* I happen to like that sort of thing.
So I immediately picked up My Sister's Keeper. And I liked it too. In fact, I was only half way through the book when I was positive I'd be giving it four stars. Sure the sub-plot about the lawyer and the child advocate falling in love was incredibly stupid, but could I blame Jody for throwing it in? No. I'm sure her target audience expects that sort of thing to be in every book they ever read. So I was willing to forgive it. I even forgave all the cheesy cliches.
Because sometimes I'm able to ignore stupid subplots, ridiculous cliches, irritating characters (and by irritating I mean 'so monstrous they deserve to die a horribly drawn-out and painful death'. Yes, I'm talking about the mother in this book), formulaic--that's a word, right?--writing and even the lack of good editing when a story has peaked my interest. It happened when I was reading Twilight and it happened while I was reading this book.
Besides, I'd already come to the conclusion that I'd like this book because I liked Nineteen Minutes. I even had visions of myself adding Jodi Picoult to my list of favorite authors, adding the whole of Jodi Picoult's published works to my TBR list, happily reading said books on the beach over summer break--it was going to be so awesome!
But then, when I was nearly finished with this book, Jodi Picoult went and ruined everything. EVERYTHING! I don't even have the desire to finish this book. I feel manipulated, betrayed, lied to, cheated, and totally violated! I also feel incredibly stupid for thinking that Jodi Picoult was a good writer. Because she's not. She totally sucks and I hate her.
So. Even though I've wasted hours of my life reading, and thinking about, Jodi Picoult novels, it hasn't been all bad. I've learned two things from this whole experience. First, I should trust my initial instincts when it comes to books. Second, I'm an a-hole for lying to my kid. It's no wonder she doesn't trust me, and she'll probably need years of therapy because of it. I wouldn't blame her if she threw me in a really bad nursing home someday.
I gave this book two stars because it isn't horrible until the end. That's when Picoult whips out the most manipulative, unnecessary twist, and thus ruins the whole experience.
Now let us never speak of this again.