Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Summer reading: My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
I had never read a novel by Jodi Picoult, but I kept seeing her books prominently displayed on bookstore shelves and seeing people (women) reading them on the commuter train. And then My Sister's Keeper (the movie) came out, with Cameron Diaz as the mother, Alec Baldwin as the lawyer, and Abigail Breslin as the daughter, and I decided I wanted to read the book before I saw the movie (assuming that I could ever drag dh to see what was so obviously yet another a chick flick, lol)(so far, I haven't seen it). So I brought it with me on my recent vacation.
It was an absorbing read. Definitely geared to a female audience, but not so frivolous that it could be labelled "chick lit."
My Sister's Keeper is the story of a family whose life revolves around the oldest daughter, Kate, who has been battling leukemia since she was a child. Kate has managed to reach the teenage years, with the help of her younger sister, Anna (now 13), who was conceived using IVF and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, specifically so that she could be a bone marrow donor for Kate. Over the years, Anna has endured several painful procedures to benefit her sister. Now, Kate needs a kidney transplant -- and guess who is being tapped (yet again) as the donor? This time, however, Anna has other plans for her life.
I've heard news stories in the past, about babies who were conceived as donors for sick siblings. I knew it was an ethically contentious topic, but I never really stopped to consider all the different aspects of such a situation, and how it would play out through the years as the children grew up. How does the donor child feel about all this, and their role in the family? How do families of terminally ill children cope? How does one child's illness affect the family dynamics, & the other children in the family?
Speaking of other children in the family -- I think my favourite character in the book wound up being Jesse, Anna & Kate's juvenile delinquent of an older brother. The ending of the book is full of twists, and I had to laugh when I read about Jesse's fate. In retrospect, it seemed so obvious, but I honestly didn't see it coming. (By the way, I've heard the ending of movie is quite different from the book's. Caveat emptor.)
Many of the reader reviews I've seen express an intense dislike for the character of the mother, Sara, who tenaciously clings to the goal of keeping her older daughter alive, any way she can -- even at the expense of her younger daughter's happiness. But what would you or I do in the same situation? How can you not hope for a miracle? How do you know when to say "enough is enough"? What's the difference between admitting defeat and accepting the reality of an impossible situation? To what extent should parents be allowed to make decisions for their child, and to what extent should the child's wishes and opinions be taken into consideration?
Dare I say -- Sara reminded me of so many women I know, in real life and online, who tenaciously cling to their goal of becoming a mother... someday, somehow, some way. How do you decide when enough is enough? When do you stop hoping for a miracle? What is it that makes drive some people to try IVF four, six, nine times, and others (like me) to throw in the towel before even trying it once?
This would be a good future pick for the Barren B*tches Book Tour. As you can see, there's plenty of scope for discussion here!! And I will probably pick up another one of Picoult's novels in the future.