“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?