Sunday, September 19, 2010

"My Sister’s Keeper" by Jodi Picoult, reviewed by Elaine Cougler

The title of My Sister’s Keeper intrigued me. Everyone who has a sibling knows that in some way, whether we want to be or not, we are all our siblings’ watchdogs. I took the book home on a Friday and had it finished by Sunday.

At first I was annoyed that every new chapter was told by someone different. Then I realized that differing points of view is very much the point of the book. At the centre of the story is a sixteen-year-old cancer victim, Kate. The whole world seems to revolve around her as she goes from crisis to crisis, each one more devastating than the last. The lives of her family members, of necessity, are mixed up with Kate’s, but none more so than Anna’s.

Anna was actually engineered and born to be an exact match for Kate, in order to save her life. Talk about a purpose! But Anna is not consulted about the endless painful procedures she endures to save her sister. Eventually she consults a lawyer and refuses to donate a kidney to Kate.

The amazing thing about this story is that Picoult first tells Anna’s story, gaining the reader’s sympathy for this precocious thirteen-year-old, seemingly alone in her point of view. As the court case unfolds, however, Anna’s firefighter father reveals his cautious support of her. Anna’s druggie, totally messed up brother takes shape as a surprising ally. Her lawyer’s need for his dog’s company everywhere makes the reader wonder what his real story might be. Anna’s mother, Sara, seems totally focused on Kate, the child for whom she bore Anna, but even this changes.

This story starts when the cancer has almost won so that the reader expects a sad ending. What I did not expect was how much I would be drawn into the fray. Picoult patiently paints the lives of each of her characters with such skill that I lost my initial total support for Anna and came to taste the deep dilemma each family member felt until I was quite able to accept the surprise ending. Upon finishing the book I immediately went to my computer, found that Picoult has many other titles and that My Sister’s Keeper is a movie. I definitely want to see the movie and read more Picoult.
*
Elaine Cougler lives in southern Ontario and is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario.  She has taught French, English and Computer Studies in various secondary schools and now spends her time travelling, reading, writing and researching history, much of it for her historical fiction novel series in progress.  She recalls sitting one summer in her screened-in porch reading yet another fine author and feeling tears trickle down her cheeks, wishing that she, too, could write so well.  Now she has the time to pursue that quest.  Elaine feels lucky to have a supportive husband and two grown children who share her interest in writing and unreservedly cheer her on. 

For information about Brian Henry's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

1 comment:

  1. Now i am going to get that book. Forget the movie - half has to be cut to fit the time frame.
    B

    ReplyDelete