Monday, 25 June 2012

Review: My Sister's Keeper, Jodi Picoult

I am a huge fan of Jodi Picoult's books, but weirdly, I hadn't ever read this one until recently, despite it being her most well-known novel. Jodi Picoult loves to write about controversial and divisive topics, in a way that shows all the different viewpoints, allowing readers to come to their own conclusion and often opening our eyes to the complexity of situations that on the surface might seem very straightforward. My Sister's Keeper is no exception, as it covers the topic of 'designer' babies and the ethics of having a child specifically for the purpose of saving the life of another.

The story follows thirteen-year-old Anna, who has always known that she was born in order to provide platelets and bone marrow for her older sister, Kate, who is dying from leukaemia. The story begins as Kate is suffering from kidney failure, and the family look to Anna as the donor. Sick of always being used for spare parts, Anna decides to file a lawsuit against her parents, suing them for the rights to her own body.

This 'medical emancipation' is the first case of its kind, and is obviously very controversial. Anna's mother is furious - how could she be so selfish as to effectively sign a death sentence for Kate? Each chapter follows a different point of view, from Anna, her lawyer, her mother, her father, and her brother Jesse, the black sheep of the family, who has tried to cope with his lifetime of neglect due to Kate's illness by turning to drink, drugs and arson. Interestingly, Kate's viewpoint has the least coverage in the story.

Having different chapters narrated by different characters is a common feature in Picoult's novels, because it allows us to sympathise with characters who would otherwise seem very cruel. At first Anna's mother seems like a bad parent who unfairly favours Kate and does not care about the wellbeing of Anna or Jesse, but her chapters move chronologically through the first diagnosis of Kate's leukaemia to the present day, and through her viewpoint we realise how difficult it has been for her to decide what to do, and how much love she has for all of her children.

The book is a full-on tearjerker throughout, and the ending hit me like a punch in the stomach. I haven't seen the film adaptation, but I do know that aside from the basic premise, the details and stories between the characters are very different, as are the endings, so lovers of the film might be surprised by a lot of the things that happen in this story. 

I liked My Sister's Keeper a lot. It made me think about what decision I would make if I was put in the position of either Anna or her parents, and it asked some very difficult questions about the ethics of conceiving 'donor babies'. This is definitely a book that will make you think, and hopefully leave you with an open mind and a deeper understanding of the different sides to the argument. It will also make you want to go around and give everyone you love a great big hug!

I give this book 4/5 - overall it was a really interesting story but some parts seemed to drag a bit, and felt unnecessary, such as the additional storyline of the lawyer trying to get back together with his ex. I found my eyes sliding off the page during some of these chapters. I guess the idea was to humanise him so that we'd relate to him as well as the other characters, but I just felt like if I'd wanted to read an angsty romance, then I would have picked up a different book! However, overall there was plenty to keep me turning the pages to find out what would happen, and I would recommend it to anybody who likes 'real life' stories that make you think.

No comments:

Post a Comment