But what if a sibling had no choice in the matter? What if she didn’t want to be her sister’s keeper? What then?
Best-selling author Jodi Picoult tackled this issue in her 2004 novel, “My Sister’s Keeper.” Anna Fitzgerald, 13, was genetically engineered by her parents to save her cancer-stricken sister, Kate.
Anna undergoes procedure after procedure to help her older sister – until she’s had enough. She seeks out Campbell Alexander, a lawyer who eventually helps her become medically emancipated from her parents.
Picoult alternates the characters as they narrate different sections of the book. It works because it allows readers to get to know the characters who would otherwise be overlooked, such as Jesse, who is Kate and Anna’s brother.
This writing style is easy enough to follow, but some parts could have been ommitted to tighten the story. It clocks in at just about 400 pages, but that may be one too many for what is essentially a simple plot – albeit with complex themes.
Nonetheless, Picoult is a fabulous writer. I couldn’t turn a page without being amazed by her words. Here are just a few of her striking paragraphs:
Brian, Kate and Anna’s father:
“I became a firefighter because I wanted to save people. But I should have been more specific. I should have named names.”
Brian and Sara, Kate and Anna’s parents:
“I want to look at you and remember what it used to be like,” (Sara) says thickly. “I want to go back, Brian. I want you to take me back.”
But she is not the woman I used to know, the woman who traveled a countryside counting prairie dog holes, who read aloud the classifieds of lonely cowboys seeking women and told me, in the darkest crease of the night, that she would love me until the moon lost its footing in the sky.
To be fair, I am not the same man. The one who listened. The one who believed her.
Moreover, I found the legal aspect of the story one of the most interesting things about the book. The law states that we are not legally responsible for other people’s lives.
If a building is on fire, we are not legally obligated to go in and start saving people. Technically, under the current law, the victims’ families can’t sue the bystanders and win. The story made me more aware of this, and I thought Picoult handled the legal issue beautifully.
Under different circumstances, the end would have left me with mixed feelings, but the author’s writing was so stunning that even the last few pages couldn’t stop me from loving the entire book.
*Click here to watch the trailer of the movie adaptation, which is expected to hit theaters on June 26. It stars Cameron Diaz (“Vanilla Sky”) and Abigail Breslin (“Little Miss Sunshine”). The film has left out a main character, but I hope they keep the novel’s powerful ending because – not in spite of – the reaction it may get.