Thursday, April 11, 2024

Jodi Picoult - My Sister's Keeper

Sara Fitzgerald's daughter Kate is just two years old when she is diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia. Reeling with the helpless shock of it, Sara knows she will do anything -- whatever it takes - to save her child. Then the tests results come back time and again to show that no one in their family is a match for Kate. If they are to find a donor for the crucial bone marrow transplant she needs, there is only one option: creating another baby, specifically designed to save her sister. For Sara, it seems the ideal solution. Not only does Kate live, but she gets a beautiful new daughter, Anna, too. Until the moment Anna hands Sara the papers that will rock her whole world. Because, aged thirteen, Anna has decided that she doesn't want to help Kate live any more. She is suing her parents for the rights to her own body.

Comment: This is another book I brought from the library, for one of my book challenges, this time something that everyone has read and I didn't. I have read two other books by the author, but not this one.

In this famous story and movie, we meet the Fitzgeralds, a family whose main focus has been on Kate, the older sister, and someone with leukemia. In an attempt to find a way to help their daughter, Sara and Brian had another child, Anna, through a treatment, so this new child could be born with the exact requirements to donate blood from the umbilical cord, which worked at first. However, the disease has returned time after time and Anna has donate way more than what anyone would imagine, now the case being a possible kidney transplant. Then, Anna decides on a shocking step, she wants to ask legal medical emancipation from her parents, but how will everyone react, how will this affect the family and, of course, Kate's health?

One thing can be said about this book, whether people like it or not: it's an easy, compelling read and, as it had happened with the previous two I had tried by Jodi Picoult, I liked the experience of reading, always finding willingness to turn the pages. As it happened to many other readers, I also had the idea the author wrote melodramatic stories whose point was to present two sides and let the readers feel whatever. In a way, this is precisely the author's trademark, but regarding the books I've tried, this worked out quite well and the stories remained interesting to me.

It's true that this is a book many people had read, I had not, and there's a famous movie which I happen to not have seen either. However, social media makes it almost impossible, or at least very difficult, to avoid knowing spoilers and when I begun reading, I already knew that the book and the movie have different ends. I also knew which ends those would be but since the story was compelling to me, the journey of reading was good enough to make this interesting, even though I knew how it would end.

The obvious theme to debate is Anna's decision. Would she be able to have enough legal ability, despite being a minor, to really make her own decisions? She had the help of a lawyer (whose personal story with Julia, the person indicated by the court to help Anna endeared him to me, although I've seen reviews where readers didn't agree) and we do have courtroom scenes where the situation is discussed, but at the same time this felt rather simplistic... could something like this happen in real life the way is described..?

That aside, Anna is a sweet 13 year old and a big part of the story is told from her POV, for obvious reasons, and I did like her. I think the notion of making us sympathetic to her worked out well. We also have the POV of several others, and all present their reasons and feelings in a way one can relate to, and that is why I felt this was such an engaging story. However, precisely because of this, we can also notice when things seem to be exaggerated or emotionally heavy and, in this I do agree with many others, the author can't help but writing certain things manipulating the reader. The question is, is knowing this more or is less important than caring for the story/characters? I think I could separate myself from the fictional story enough to enjoy the story and not be overwhelmed, but perhaps this affected others differently.

The end is proof of this. I think the movie end is certainly more realistic, but even if the author wanted to prove a point, it didn't have to be done the way she chose, because that diminished all the decisions and supposed choices the characters had done, mainly Anna's and of her lawyer, of the court... but, again, I repeat, this didn't ruin the reading experience for me.. perhaps because I already knew what would happen? I am aware, though, how this might seem to others.

I know part of the negative reactions is also due to how the parents decided to have a baby to save the other child, but the way I saw it, this cannot be seen as only a negative thing, I didn't get the feeling things were as black and white as that, but I can imagine that this subject also affects people differently. I think the story was intriguing and provocative enough, and I felt that it did provide food for thought, but despite the less than good scenes and situations, or even those who are likely to cause disaproval or a negative reaction, as a fictional story, I still liked it. I will likely try more by the author as well, if I can.
Grade: 8/10

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