Saturday, September 18, 2010

My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult

"'Cause you'd been abused by the bone that refused you and you hired me to make up for that."

Just as the ethical issues that present themselves within this book, it is difficult for me to properly rate this novel.

I had heard about it a long time ago, but I was not eager to read it. The topic sounded almost too interesting to avoid - a story about a young girl with cancer whose parents force her younger sister to act as a permanent donor - but my English major mind tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me that there were many other novels to be reading. This one seemed, to put it in the most elitist terms, too mainstream. But I needed to try it and after a battle with my own brain, I walked to the Chapters counter with my purchase.

This novel is told through the narration of all of the characters, save the sister with cancer - Kate. Her sister, Anna, is the main character of the novel and she is fighting to medically emancipate herself from her parents, arguing her right to her own body. Specifically, the kidney that would potentially save her sister's life. The entire family has opportunity to voice their concerns throughout the trials, including outside opinions from Anna's chosen attorney,  Campbell Alexander, and the appointed guardian ad litem, Julie. Sara, Anna and Kate's mother, is the voice into the past as she recalls the events that happened in Kate and Anna's early years. Through this perspective the reader is able to gain a healthy background of the family.

The ethical issues that fall from these pages are not easily solved. From one perspective, the mother is surely a monster, forcing her youngest daughter - bred and born specifically to act as a donor for Kate - to withstand procedures that no child would willingly accept. On the other side, Anna could be perceived as the monster as she is completely unwilling to help her sister any longer, which of course means that Kate will die. I found myself taking sides and arguing with the pages as the story unfolded itself, but as I progressed I found something much deeper. Mainly, the complications of family and the complications of life in general. This novel teaches that there although a medical world can give a simple answer for the most complicated problem, life does not always offer the same relief. A thirteen year old girl is forced to grow up too fast, but as the same time is still trying to learn who she really is. Anna has no concept of what she is worth past being her sister's keeper (hey, that is the title of the book!), and it is at this point she finds herself wondering what more she could possibly be.

I give this novel a 4/5. I was definitely uncertain about reading it, just because of its mass popularity, but I am glad that I did. I would definitely recommend this novel because of its quick pace - I was able to get through the 400+ pages in roughly two days - but also because of the story. It crosses some lines that a lot of people would not be willing to witness, and in that I think it is important.

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