Synopsis: Can a parent love too much? Or is too much never enough?
Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate – a life and a role that she has never challenged…until now.
Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister – and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable, a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves.
A provocative novel that raises some important ethical issues, My Sister’s Keeper is the story of one family’s struggle for survival at all human costs and a stunning moral parable for all time.
My Review: I found this to be a difficult novel to read, both because of Kate’s illness and the situation that Anna finds herself in. I’ve seen the movie, so I kind of knew the story already, and it was still a very sad book. I found myself asking, over and over, what would I do in this situation?
What made it a little more difficult for me was that to an extent, I didn’t really like Anna anyway. I found her to be annoying and it was frustrating to see how she just couldn’t seem to make up her mind. Then again, I would probably waiver were I in her position, so I don’t feel like I can be too critical of her. And I haven’t been a thirteen year old for a really long time, so maybe I’m just too disconnected to really identify with much of her life.
The novel raises a very big ethical question – how far should you go to save the life of one child, and at what cost to another? Anna’s parents never intended to let things go as far as they did, yet it seems a lot of the time that Kate is the only concern. As a reader, you see the story of the entire Fitzgerald family, and I found myself wondering which of them genuinely suffered the most: Is it Kate with her illness? Anna having to be the perpetual donor? Jesse as the neglected eldest child? Or the parents, having to live this life and make decisions for all three of their children?
The perspective trades off from one character to another at each chapter break, which provided an interesting way to hear the story. The only one missing is Kate – you hear her story through everyone else’s. I definitely felt sympathy for Anna throughout the novel, but I couldn’t help feeling bad for Kate. Not simply because she has leukemia, but also because she has no real choice about what happens to her either. And the sad thing is that you know there is no real happy ending to a story like this.
For those who have seen the movie and not read the book, I highly recommend you make the time to read it and make your own comparisons. Although there is an epilogue, I would be interested in seeing a sequel at some point, because I was left wanting more. This was also my first Jodi Picoult novel, and I will absolutely read more of her work after this.
Read this book if: You’re interested in a lovely family struggle story. It’s definitely a tear jerker, but well worth the effort.