Tuesday, January 15, 2008

My Sister's Keeper

This was one of those books that made me want to skip out on all responsibilities and things that could wait--it was fascinating. Sometimes books do that to me--and by the time I'm done with the book, the house is a wreck, the kids have been neglected, and I've missed out on a whole lot of sleep, but it's all worth it to feel so good after finishing a great book and expanding my point of view or understanding of some situation or culture.

My Sister's Keeper is about a girl who was conceived to provide cord blood for her sister (3 years old) that has a rare type of leukemia. The cord blood puts the older sister (Kate) into remission for several years, but relapses require more donations (blood, bone marrow, etc.) from Anna. At 16, Kate is in renal failure and needs a new kidney, which Anna (now 13) is expected to donate. The story begins with Anna going into an attorney's office wanting to sue her parents for medical emancipation because she does not want to donate her kidney. It was so well written--the author told the story from all of the points of view--from each parent (Sara, the mother, who is also an attorney and represents herself and her firefighter husband Brian); Anna; Cambell, Anna's attorney; Julia, the guardian ad litem assigned to Anna; and Anna and Kate's older brother Jesse who is a juvenile delinquent. Each perspective showed different facets of the story and I loved that the author used a different font for each character (I love fonts!). Overall, the story was very thought provoking. As a mother, I can understand the desire to do anything to save your child, but it all becomes cloudy if another child (and possibly her health and safety) is necessary for that. By the end of the book, I still don't know WHAT the right answer is. I felt torn between 1--wanting Kate to live and Sara to feel that she was able to do everything possible to save her child and 2--wanting Anna to be able to make her own decisions and feel valued regardless of her ability to save her sister.

I particularly enjoyed reading from Anna's perspective (who is very wise for her 13 years) and from her dad's perspective. A few things Anna's dad said really resonated with me:

"Goldfish get big enough only for the bowl you put them in. Bonsai trees twist in miniature. I would have given anything to keep her little. They outgrow us so much faster than we outgrow them."

Isn't that the truth? When asked to give advice to parents-to-be, I always say "Enjoy every stage, even the ones that don't seem so fun." Each stage passes by so quickly--it seems that we tend to look forward so much that we forget to savor the here and now.

While talking about the legal and medical crises he faces with his daughters, he said:

"And yet--like always--you manage to deal with both. The human capacity for burden is like bamboo--far more flexible than you'd ever believe at first glance."

Have you noticed during times of adversity that you really are able to bear more than you thought possible? I like the analogy of comparing it to bamboo.

Throughout the story, Anna and her dad (Brian) share a love for astronomy and there are many interchanges centered around that interest. Near the end of the story, Brian reflects on a twist that has just taken place in the courtroom. He says:

"Then it hits me--I am looking in the wrong place. The Aboriginal people of Australia, for example, look between the constellations of the Greeks and the Romans into the black wash of sky, and find an emu hiding under the Southern Cross where there are no stars. There are just as many stories to be told in the dark spots as there are in the bright ones."

It makes me wonder, what am I missing in the dark spots?

Have any of you read this book? What did you think? Overall, I really enjoyed the book and recommend it (with the warning of scattered profanity that might offend some). I am interested to read other books by Jodi Picoult--I think she addresses other ethical issues such as this. Any suggestions from that have read other books by her?


Tricia said...

I read The Pact, but I wouldn't recommend it. The sexual stuff in it kind of made me uncomfortable. But I loved My Sister's Keeper, so I want to try other books by her. I have Vanishing Acts on my bookshelf. I have Obama's book on my nightstand. And, I can't wait to see if you like the Big Stone Gap series. I have really enjoyed it.