[Possible spoilers ahead.]
I had never heard of Jodi Picoult until about 2 years ago. And since the first time her name came to my cognizance, I’ve heard nothing but good things about her writing. Especially My Sister’s Keeper. When I found the book at a relatively cheap price, I was beyond excited. Way beyond excited. I obviously wanted to find out for myself if the story was worth all the hype it was getting. It still gets a lot of positive press.
However many rave reviews My Sister’s Keeper had, it didn’t become my first Picoult. It was House Rules that took the distinction.
Jodi Picoult is a very thorough author. The amount of research she does for every story shows in the quality of her books. While stories can be pulled through with the outlines, it’s the specifics that form the flesh and blood – the most important part of a book. And that is what Jodi Picoult is all about.
13-year-old Anna Fitzgerald has decided to sue her parents, Sara and Brian, for medical emancipation. Her sister, Kate, was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia and her parents decided to have a genetically programmed baby who could be an organ donor for Kate. Thus Anna is born, and whenever Kate falls sick, Anna has to be hospitalized, too, since she donates her stem cells, lymphocytes, and so on to her sick older sister.
Anna’s decision shocks the parents, but not Anna and Kate’s older brother, Jesse. He understands where Anna is coming from and supports her, despite being on the cusp of being called a juvenile delinquent. But what is a child to do, where is he to go, when all the energies of the parents are concentrated on the well-being of just one of their children?
My Sister’s Keeper, which I expected to be an emotional one, turned out to be exactly that. Only, the emotion that welled up within me was anger. At the parents, more Sara than Brian. Though in the first few pages of the book, I sympathized with Sara, I lost all warmth for her as the story progressed. She says a lot of things to her own children that seem too cruel coming from a mother.
For example, she finds it hard to feel sorry for Jesse, her own son. Maybe this wouldn’t have happened if she had concentrated on all of her children instead of one. I agree, Kate is sick, she needs most attention. But that doesn’t mean she treated her other kids as dispensable. And when Anna files the lawsuit (which in my opinion was a good thing), she asks her, “What have we done to you to deserve this?” If a mother has to ask this of her child, she doesn’t understand her at all. And that is the saddest thing to ever happen to a child.
My biggest problem with Sara Fitzgerald is not what I’ve mentioned earlier. It is that she thinks about Anna and talks about her in terms of blood, stem cells, and tissue. She only really turns to her when Kate needs something, when she is sick. My God, I dislike her character so much I’d send her hate mail every day of the week.
Given, the author herself has said that Sara will invite criticism but that we should cut her some slack. But isn’t parenting all about balancing life and attention? Why have children if you cannot give them the attention they deserve? That’s exactly what happened with Jesse, didn’t it? It’s not about choosing between her two girls, she says. It’s about wanting both. But does this condone her earlier behavior?
To create a child just to keep another child alive is okay. I’m sympathetic with that much. But to not pay attention to that child unless the first is in a situation and needs the second is absolutely cruel. And when the other kids, apart from the sick one, want some childish attention, the parents expecting them to behave like grownups is also cruel.
Coming to Anna. That poor child, torn between wanting someone to notice her and not hurting her parents. And when someone asks her stupid questions about her family, she shows a righteous anger that so many people out there cannot justify. Every sentence that comes out of her has a meaning and it makes it easy for the reader to understand everything she says and does. I feel bad, I feel like crying, just thinking about the situation Anna has been put in.
A good book makes you unsure of where you stand, giving you balanced views of both sides. My Sister’s Keeper is one such book. Sometimes, you think, what is a parent to do? And then at other times, you think, why would the parents do something like this to their children? There’s a see-saw effect every time this happens, though I prefer to sit back and throw my weight down once the latter happens.
To make its point, the book has some hard-hitting quotes, every one of which is relevant to Anna’s action that set the ball rolling. I’m not even kidding. The analogies that Picoult has used in the book are heartbreaking. Take this quote for example:
If you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it’s not because they enjoy solitude. It’s because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them.
And through quotes like these, every character in the story gets to tell their perspective. And I’m so glad for it. Otherwise, My Sister’s Keeper wouldn’t be as great a roller-coaster as it is now, making you swing from this opinion to that.
There has been quite some speculation about how the book ends, saying that it spoils the whole book. And I agree to some extent. It seemed rushed and unnecessary and clichéd. Oh, and convenient after all that happened. Calling it convenient might be rude, but how it happened was ruder.
But there’s another part of my brain that tells me that everything that happens in a fiction novel is anyway convenient. What’s one more?
What’s one more is that though I didn’t feel let down by it, I did think it should have ended another way. One which, if I told you now, would give away the original ending. And I know how it feels to know the ending of a book or TV show beforehand.
So until I read another book to recover from the mighty slap that this book doled out to me, I don’t think I will ever forgive the author for the ending. Though, I probably don’t feel as angry at her as I feel at Sara, though the author is responsible for Sara, too.
[Bumping off half a star for that ending. 😦 ]
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Until next time, keep reading and add melodrama to your life. 🙂