My Sister’s Keeper

“What do parents look like?”

“You know how the tightrope guy at the circus wants everyone to believe his act is an art, but deep down you can see that he’s really just hoping he makes it all the way across? Like that.”

I recently finished the second book in the From the Stacks reading challenge. The book was My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult. The premise is this: A young girl, Kate, is terribly ill. She has leukemia, and the only thing that can save her, maybe, is donated umbilical cord blood. So, her parents have another child, Anna, a child that they select from several embryos because she is a perfect match for Kate, and thus Kate has a better chance of recovery with donations from Anna than from anyone else. The problem is that Kate doesn’t get better…or, more accurately, she goes into remission for three years, and then gets sick again. And again. Almost every time she is ill, the solution is to harvest something from Anna. Bone marrow, etc. It never works as well as it should. At the time we join the book, Kate’s kidneys are failing her, and she is dying, again. She is 16 years old, and Anna is 13. Anna decides to sue her parents for medical emancipation, so that she can refuse to donate her kidney to her sister.

The story is told from many points of view…Anna, her mother, her father, her brother, her lawyer, the court appointed person who is supposed to recommend a solution to the judge of the trial. They each get a voice. The voices are honest and true, and strike a chord of sympathy as you are reading.

The issues are complex, and the sad thing is that you know there is no easy answer, no way for everyone to win in this story. That’s part of what keeps you turning the pages, I guess.

I was completely sucked into this book, and it was a much easier read than The Scarlet Letter, being as how it was written in this century and all.

SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t read the book, and if you think you might, don’t read on. I’m giving away the surprise plot twist at the end of the book!
My only problem with the book, and it was kind of a doozy for me, was the ending. Anna wins her freedom, and is on her way to the hospital (perhaps to donate her kidney anyway, we’re not sure), when she is in a terrible accident, and she dies. WTF? They are able to harvest her kidneys, which are donated to Kate, and apparently put her into remission, for the last chapter of the book is a couple of years in the future, and Kate is still alive and healthy. I didn’t think that was necessary at all. Perhaps having Anna save Kate with her kidney, and everyone living all happily ever after would be too Hollywood, and perhaps that’s why Ms. Picoult chose the ending she did. Perhaps she’s read too much Hans Christian Anderson, and there can be no such thing as a happy ending. Perhaps she had toyed with Kate dying, with or without the kidney transplant, and decided that was too cruel, and yet SOMEONE had to die. But it was a bit too movie of the week for me, too gratuitous, to have her die that way. Everything leading up to that point was so good, though, that I may find myself picking up other books by this author. I’ll at least give her one more try. Any suggestions, without such a sensationalist ending?

12 thoughts on “My Sister’s Keeper

  1. Thanks for the review on this book. I do want to read it, but need to get through my others first. I stayed away from the spoiler πŸ˜‰

  2. Avert eyes! Avert eyes on that last paragraph. I have been meaning to get around to that book but right now I have four waiting in the wings.

  3. I read the spoiler because I am so behind in my reading! That ending blows. It’s one of those bittersweet endings. Oh well, thanks for the review. πŸ™‚

  4. Darn, I read the spoiler (can’t help it). I used to read the last pages of a book before I started it. Weirdo. Sounds like a very interesting story, but with a sucky ending.

  5. Ah, darn she died. I can see where the little girl was coming from. She probably felt like a lab rat, just there for the better of her sister. I wish that the author ended it more upbeat and with some subtance. I think it was cop-out ending for this author involving very little thought. After all it was a human interest story.

  6. I think I’d be okay with her being emancipated and then choosing to donate her kidney anyway, and still not know how things turned out for Kate. That way, Anna can be the liberated heroine and all the loose ends don’t have to be tied up in a Hollywood way.

  7. I didn’t read the spoiler and I didn’t read the other comments… just in case.

    This sounds like an interesting read. I want to have some books in my stack that are fictional but make you think. But it sounds like I’d cry too.. and thats ok. Ok, going on the list. Thanks!

  8. My mother read this book and gave it to me along with the words, “it sucked” so I read your spoiler and probably won’t read this book. I know alot of people really like this author, but for some reason I’m turned off.

  9. You know we were actually talking about this the other night at dinner with some friends. Not this book exactly but about parents who have another hoping to save a first. Strange concept that’s for sure, but I can’t say what I’d do.

    That does sound like a crappy ending though. I like my books and movies to end happily ever after.

  10. THis book generated a lot of discussion when it first came out and it still does. Jodi Picoult is known for writing about provocative and controversial topics but for some reason I haven’t been able to “get into” and enjoy any of her books – I haven’t tried this particular one, but maybe I will. Thanks for the great review!

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