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My First Picoult Read - Probably Not the Last

  • Jul 19, 2010

This was the first Jodi Picoult book I've read, for no better reason than that I perceived her more as a Doubleday author (read: pot-boilers) rather than a Quality Paperback Book Club author (read: critical acclaim).  And I'm pretty sure I've been missing out.

This was a great book, one I read after a friend recommended it and I became intrigued by the moral quandary presented by the plot: to save one child, is it fair for a parent to authorize the taking of blood, tissue and body parts from another...especially if the donor is not entirely sure they want to participate?

The Fitzgeralds are in the place parents never want to be: for more than 14 years, they've been fighting for the life of their oldest daughter, Kate, who has an acute form of leukemia.  As the story opens, Kate is nearing death from renal failure, and the last remaining option for treatment is transplanting a kidney from her younger sister, Anna.  Trouble is - after years of donating blood, bone marrow, and other tissue for her sister's treatments - Anna has sued her parents for medical emancipation, saying she doesn't want to donate the kidney.

Enough of a drama to make you want to keep reading, even without the added complication of an attorney hiding a secret vulnerability and faced with the reappearance of the long-lost love of his life, a free spirit he met in prep school who has come back into the picture as Anna's temporary guardian.

When recapped that way, it may sound a bit too much like the standard modern romance formula.  But there's a heartfeltness about the relationship that keeps you reading as much for the subplot as for the main one, and that would be missed if it wasn't there.

Picoult tells her story using the voices of everyone in Anna's family, as well as her attorney and guardian, a handy tool that not only keep the story fresh but keeps every character in the reader's sympathies.  By the time you're drawn into the heart of the story, it's hard to root for one side over another.

That's part of the story's appeal; the other is an unexpected and lovely use of metaphors and parallels.  Anna's father Brian, is a firefighter who's in love with astronomer, and in his hands a raging fire or the Greek myths he thinks of when he looks to the skies mirror the family's emotional turmoil.

At the penultimate moment, you can't help but wonder how Picoult will choose to resolve the story, since a happy ending, in this scenario, is highly unlikely.  In the end, the resolution is an unexpected and melodramatic plot twist that keeps the story from falling into a rut, but also left me feeling dissatisfied. I think it was just a little bit too much of a tearjerker to feel good about...I think I would rather have had the story come through a less tidy but more expected resolution.  But in a way, it was a triumph of the author's ability to keep her readers on board through an emotional journey.

I know there is a movie adaptation of this book, but I'm a little reluctant to see it.  Not only does it sound like it would require two boxes of Kleenexes, I'm not sure the pictures could match the depth of the words on the page.  But there are some times when movies exceed expectations, so I may read up on it and give it a try...probably without my husband, who steers a wide berth around any movies focused on sickness and death, especially after becoming a father.

And as a mom, my deepest wish is that this story was only an exercise in the theoretical - that, as mother Sara says in My Sister's Keeper, we'll never become the family you read about where a child or young mother is fighting disease, that story that at once fills you with sympathy and makes you thankful it's not you.  Because really, it's the luck of the draw.

In the end, that's probably why I read the book - I am thankful it's not us, but I know that it could be.  Regardless, this read just might have made a Picoult fan of me.  Next stop, the library.


My First Picoult Read - Probably Not the Last

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July 26, 2010
Great review, Emily! I've never read a Picoult book before, but I've heard really good things. Perhaps I'll start with this one. Thanks for sharing!
July 27, 2010
Believe it or not...I haven't either! I started "Nineteen Minutes," but then I put it down for other books... I'll have to tackle some myself in the near future. :)
July 26, 2010
Nice review. And, as far as that ending is concerned, if you really think about it, there couldn't possibly have been any other ending. I don't think Jodi Picoult sees it as her place to resolve an issue or even offer her opinion as to what's right or what's wrong. She purposely leaves the issue unresolved and simply presents all sides of an issue. It's up to the reader to decide which side of an issue they fall on. Keep reading ... this is an entirely typical Picoult novel and they're all great!
More My Sister's Keeper: A Novel reviews
review by . June 15, 2010
   My Sister's Keeper is truly a well written novel with a very surprise ending.  It is another case where the movie simply does not do the book justice.  The complexity of the human psyche and the lengths that a person will go to to preserve their own sense of self is very evident in this page turning novel.  Picoult perfectly describes with great detail the variety of emotions that a person goes through when they do not feel in control of their own lives.  This …
review by . June 10, 2010
What was your emotional reaction as you read? Why?      My heart went out to both the family and the little girl. I could see things from both their perspectives. I was touched by the courage of the little girl and her sister and I felt very sorry for the family having to deal with losing their child to cancer. Who would you recommend this reading to and why?      I would recommend this book to anyone with a warm heart and losts of empathy. It was a very …
review by . June 27, 2010
Jodi Picoult has been the best seller of 16 novels including My Sisters Keeper. The fact that this book is another one of her best sellers doesn’t come to any surprise to me after having read it. It was a fantastic book that tugs at every one of your heart strings as it moves from character to character. Maybe I’m a sucker for love, but the parts that I looked forward to most in the book were the ones that dealt with Campbell and Julia. I absolutely loved how Jodi Picoult had the main …
review by . January 23, 2010
Kate Fitzgerald is barely beyond infancy when she is diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), a rare and particularly robust and aggressive form of leukemia. The prognosis is bleak indeed and recovery is rarer than the cancer itself. When Kate's parents are faced with the urgent necessity to find a blood donor that is not just a match, but a perfect match, they set out to create a genetically matched sibling who will provide a perfectly matched, life-saving, blood-filled umbilicus upon …
review by . June 18, 2010
Very complex story of a family that is fighting for their oldest daughter.  On one hand, you have the moral question of what should you do to save a loved one, how far would you go?  On another hand, there is an ethical question.  How far can you go with certain procedures? Deep within the story, you find many twists and heartbreaking moments.  It makes you cherish life even more after reading this book. 
Quick Tip by . August 09, 2010
Interesting speculative fiction! This 50 character minimum is a bad idea.
Quick Tip by . July 28, 2010
"My Sister's Keeper" addresses issues in a non-judgmental fashion from a wide variety of perspectives without attempting to take sides or present pat answers that simply don't exist. It touches on genetic engineering; the insane demands made upon a parent's time and energy in dealing with children's illnesses; the extent to which children may act out for better or for worse in a demand for a parent's love and attention; the difficulty of determining whether a 13 year old minor is capable of making …
Quick Tip by . July 13, 2010
What a touching and real family story. Good insight as to what really happens.
Quick Tip by . July 13, 2010
Ending was much more poignant than Hollywood left it!
Quick Tip by . July 12, 2010
This is SUCH A GREAT BOOK! This was the first Jodi Picoult book that I read and I was not expecting the twist at the end! This is a must read! (Skip the movie, it doesn't do the book justice)
About the reviewer
Emily Coon ()
Ranked #780
Member Since: Jul 7, 2010
Last Login: Aug 2, 2010 02:51 PM UTC
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The difficult choices a family must make when a child is diagnosed with a serious disease are explored with pathos and understanding in this 11th novel by Picoult (Second Glance, etc.). The author, who has taken on such controversial subjects as euthanasia (Mercy), teen suicide (The Pact) and sterilization laws (Second Glance), turns her gaze on genetic planning, the prospect of creating babies for health purposes and the ethical and moral fallout that results. Kate Fitzgerald has a rare form of leukemia. Her sister, Anna, was conceived to provide a donor match for procedures that become increasingly invasive. At 13, Anna hires a lawyer so that she can sue her parents for the right to make her own decisions about how her body is used when a kidney transplant is planned. Meanwhile, Jesse, the neglected oldest child of the family, is out setting fires, which his firefighter father, Brian, inevitably puts out. Picoult uses multiple viewpoints to reveal each character's intentions and observations, but she doesn't manage her transitions as gracefully as usual; a series of flashbacks are abrupt. Nor is Sara, the children's mother, as well developed and three-dimensional as previous Picoult protagonists. Her devotion to Kate is understandable, but her complete lack of sympathy for Anna's predicament until the trial does not ring true, nor can we buy that Sara would dust off her law degree and represent herself in such a complicated case. Nevertheless, Picoult ably ...
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ISBN-10: 0743454529
ISBN-13: 978-0743454520
Author: Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Atria

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