Bibliophile reviews My Sister's Keeper

Author: Jodi Picoult
Year published: 2004
Genre: Family drama

The Story: 13 year old Anna Fitzgerald has been in and out of the hospital her whole life, undergoing repeated painful medical procedures. Not as a patient, but as a source of blood and cells for her older sister, Kate, who has suffered from a severe form of leukaemia since she was a child. Now Anna has been asked to give a kidney to her sister, who will probably die anyway, and the kidney harvesting may prevent Anna from ever having a completely normal life. She hires a lawyer to get medical emancipation for herself and free her from the constant demands of her mother that she always be ready to sacrifice herself for her sister. She wants to make her own decision about what she donates to her sister. Meanwhile, her brother has found a destructive outlet for his feelings, and Anna's lawyer and her guardian ad litem have a history that may complicate matters.

Technique and plot: I could not put this book down. Once I started reading, I was hooked and read it through in one go. The story is told in the first person from different viewpoints that allow the reader direct access to all the principal characters and makes it difficult to assign traditional roles to them, such as Hero, Victim, Villain, Helper, and so on. The characters are simply too complex for such labels. The subject is controversial and complex, and Picoult's narrative method allows the reader to travel from one mind to the next and understand what is going on in their heads, how they see the events unfold and why they react in the ways they do. Even so, she still manages to put in twists, some of which are totally unexpected, like the ending.

Yes, the ending. It was rather anticlimactic, I thought, after the tour de force of the story. Picoult tells a story that could have happened in real life and adds a facile Hollywood ending where Anna is absolved of the guilt of possibly having been able to save her sister and the decision of donating the kidney is neatly taken out of her hands. Then Picoult adds insult to injury by tacking on a final chapter, set in the future, where Kate goes all maudlin over past events and neatly ties the story up into a cute little bow, even it if is edged with black. I cried at that end, and not because it was so emotionally loaded, but because it was so wrong for the story. Did the story have to be tied up so neatly? Why couldn't it be allowed to end without a final resolution, giving the reader the role of deciding what happened next? It would have made the story much more verisimilar to real life.

Rating: Loved everything about it except the ending. It is therefore getting 4 stars instead of the five I had decided on before I read that ending.


Lori said…
This was a great book, wasn't it? I wasn't sure I liked the ending either, but on the whole it was amazing. I cried while I was reading most of this. I wanted to be angry at the mother, but when I read her point of view, I understood her and found it much harder to be angry. That's why it was so great to have alternating first-person accounts.
song said…
I thought the ending was a bit too 'neat' too. I think it would have been better if the sister had died (not in a car crash, from the diesease) if she wanted all her ends tied up nicely. then she could have written another book about anna feeling guilty.

I just found your site - you have some great reviews.

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