First, did you know that Jodi Picoult pronounces her name pee-coh, not pi-colt? All you smarty pants who were able to look at her name and say, “Oh, Jodi Pee-coh,” well, you guys can talk amongst yourselves while the rest of us talk about how we’ve been pronouncing it wrong for as long as we can remember.
A new member of my book club suggested My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult for a book club pick, and even though I’d already read the book back when it was released (and really enjoyed it!), I didn’t want to read it for book club. However, I acquiesced and so April’s pick was My Sister’s Keeper.
My Sister’s Keeper is about two sisters, Anna and Kate. Kate has leukemia that she’s been battling since she was two years old. Anna is Kate’s younger sister, conceived to be a genetic match for Kate so that when she was born, Kate could get a single cord blood treatment from Anna. But then Kate needed something else, and since Anna wasn’t doing anything with whatever they needed (bone marrow, etc), they used her as a human pincushion. And that was her life for 13 years until Kate needed a kidney and Anna finally went to a lawyer to sue her parents for medical emancipation.
The story is told by various narrators: Anna, Anna’s mom Sara, Anna’s attorney Campbell, Anna’s brother Jesse, Anna’s dad Brian, and Anna’s court-appointed guardian Julia. Just in case you miss the chapter heading that says who’s narrating that chapter, the font is different for each narrator, so hopefully one of those two things will clue you in as to who’s narrating.
I told my book club that I was really disappointed that I re-read this book. Some books aren’t meant to be re-read, and I enjoyed the book when I read it the first time, whereas now it doesn’t even fall into the mind-candy category, just the meh category (or maybe even a worse category!).
See, the problem is that since I’ve been blogging, I’ve really been expanding my reading horizons. So when I went back to Jodi Picoult, I really found it clunky and lacking in any kind of subtlety. Every time I turned a page, I was beaten over the head with how deep this book is.
The dad’s being a firefighter has a double meaning with what is going on in his family life.
The mom’s not going back to work after Anna (the youngest) was born but instead choosing to stay home and raise her family has a deeper meaning in the context of Anna suing for medical emancipation and all the choices the mom has made.
The brother’s acting out and being a pyromaniac symbolizes his feelings of being ignored and wanting to be in control.
Everything was sooo symbolic that it felt forced.
I was particularly frustrated by the ending because I think it was a cop out.
*****SPOILER ALERT****** (spoiler has been formatted with white text, so to see it just highlight the section and you’ll be able to read my thoughts on the ending)
I mean, having Anna die misses the point of what I think the heart of the story is. The heart of the story is that there comes a point when you have to say enough is enough (even if it’s the sick person who has to say that). And it’s the people who make that decision who must live with the repercussions, the guilt, the anger, the sadness. I think the story would have been much more profound if Anna had had to live with the guilt of watching her sister die, knowing she could have kept her sister alive.
Also, I felt manipulated because I think Jodi Picoult purposefully held back an important piece of information so the reader assumes it’s Anna’s choice to not give Kate a kidney, when in reality that’s not exactly true. It wasn’t just that it was a surprise ending, it was that she did everything she could to make you believe one thing and then in the end she’s all, “PSYCH! Haha! I sure fooled you!”
Jodi Picoult is a good story teller, though how well she writes is debatable, in my opinion. I think what I’m learning, having re-read a few books this year, is that some books should be left alone once you’ve read them once. I read My Sister’s Keeper four years ago, really enjoyed it, and I should have left it at that. I enjoyed it at the time for what it was, but I’ve been expanding my reading so much in the past two years that I couldn’t enjoy it for what it was, which is just a good story.
(Also, I have to say I’m totally going to go see the movie when it comes out. Also, for details listed in the spoiler, I’m excited to see how they changed the ending.)
(One last thing: Just so you know, if you’ve read one Jodi Picoult book, you’ve read them all. At least, that’s my opinion after reading a few of her books.)
Rating: 69 out of 100