Thursday, 23 May 2013

My Sister's Keeper ~ Jodie Picoult

My Sister's KeeperMy Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have intentionally and most studiously avoided reading any Jodie Picoult books for two reasons:

1. Most people who recommend her books to me are not people I have the same taste in reading with.

2. She has an ENTIRE section at Chapters dedicated to her, her name on a plaque adorning the shelf. "Jodie Picoult", it boldly states, as though the fact that she has written 18 novels and sold 14 million copies worldwide should merit her own section.

Frankly, I have always found it insulting that Jodie Picoult has her own section, but Agatha Christie doesn't. Christie has written 91 novels in total with over 4 billion sold. How does Picoult even compare? The argument can be made that Picoult is more relevant to our current time period, but what about Shakespeare and other classical authors whose works are still studied in schools?

Anyway, that's why I have never read a Jodie Picoult, so when I saw My Sister's Keeper at a thrift store, I was surprised that I picked it up. Perhaps the fact that the book was in stellar condition and was only 50 cents was the reason, but regardless, I read a Jodie Picoult.

It's difficult for me to write a fair review of this novel with successfully separating it from the movie, which I had seen prior to the novel. Some wonderful person already told me that the novel was opposite from the movie, so I wasn't able to be surprised by the ending of the book as opposed to the movie.

However, the novel still read well, even though I already knew what would happen. In a way, the novel was far grittier than the movie. Was Anna's brother Jesse a pyromaniac in the movie? I don't recall that at all.

The book pulled together the characters and fleshed them out in a way that the movie failed to do so. The greatest addition to the novel (which was difficult to translate in the movie), was the delving into the thoughts of Brian, the father and husband of the family. In the movie I felt he was neglected and difficult to empathize with; in the book Picoult creates a dreamer, a man who loves charting stars but spends his life fighting fires.

What Picoult accomplishes successfully in her novel is an examination of human character in a beautiful and almost lyrical way, without waxing too poetic or wordy. The topic she writes on (how far will we go for the ones we love?) is a difficult one to address. For the most part she is successful with undressing the human mind and motivations.

If you haven't read the book or seen the movie... Kate, 16 years old, is dying from leukaemia. Her doctors are amazed that she has lived past 5, defying the odds. When she was diagnosed with the cancer as toddler, her parents decide to have a genetically engineered baby who may be able to help Kate by being a perfect match for bone marrow and leukocytes.

Thus the ethical dilemma begins. When does Anna, the petri dish baby, have the right to her own body? Will she forever be poked and drained, her bones drilled into, her choices ignored? When Kate goes into renal failure and everyone turns to Anna's spare kidney, things get messy. Enter Campbell Alexander, the lawyer Anna hired in order to petition medical emancipation from her parents.

Here's where things get strange: in the end, it's not shocking that it turns out it's Kate who wants Anna to be emancipated. She is tired of living sick, being a burden on her family, watching her friends die from cancer... She wants to give up. It's not surprising and this is where I feel the movie ending is far more appropriate and fitting than the book's ending.

Without spoiling anything for a potential reader, all I will say is: the books ties up the threads TOO neatly. In the second last chapter the most dramatic incident occurs, with a following footnote set in the future that reflects the current state of the Fitzgerald family. It's not a stretch to say the "right" person dies in order for the "right" person to live.

Despite the rushed and too perfect ending, I give My Sister's Keeper 4 stars, because I really did like this novel. It was an enjoyable quick read, but at the same time it took the time to be reflective and even occasionally profound.

Will I read more Jodie Picoult novels? I can't answer that right now. I need to take a break and refresh myself with an Agatha. Get back to me.

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