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 test 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 anymore. She is suing her parents for the right to her own body.
Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks
First published: 2004
This books left me feeling all the feels. Seriously. I was a bit of a wreck when I just finished it, just wanting to scream “WHY?” over and over again. My Sister’s Keeper takes the term “emotional rollercoaster” to a whole new level, that’s for sure. This was the first novel by Jodi Picoult I have read and I definitely want to read more. It’ll just take some time before I’ve recovered from this first one, I’m afraid. I thought it was a really good novel, but also very heartbreaking.
One of the things I liked most about My Sister’s Keeper was the structure of the book. Anna tells a large part of the story, but you also see part of it through the eyes of her father, her mother, her brother, her lawyer and her guardian ad litem. This structure really added to the story, since you experience different points of views throughout the novel. I think that was a very good choice for this novel since it’s about such a difficult topic that clearly has a lot of sides in need of exploration. I don’t think the story would’ve worked as well as it did if we’d only get to see one character’s perspective on the matter. What I thought was very striking is that we never get to see Kate’s point of view on anything. We read about what everyone around her thinks and feels, except for her.
The story and all these different perspectives really make you think. The position Sara finds herself in is utterly impossible to deal with: she has to choose between her two daughters. There is no correct way to deal with that. I totally got that as a reader, but still I resented her for the way she treated Anna, who feels as if she’s just some kind of spare, so to speak, who’s only needed when Kate needs a transfusion or a transplant. Sara (understandably) always chooses Kate, and it becomes clear throughout the novel that doing so has done great damage to her other two children. But what was she supposed to do? Sure, she should have paid more attention to her healthy children, but I can imagine that seems entirely impossible when your other child could die at any given moment. Whichever way I looked at it, I always ended up thinking: “I don’t have the tiniest of clues of what I would do.”
And then there’s thirteen year old Anna, who has to choose between being her own person — having a life of her own — and saving her sister’s life for however long that might still last. It’s heartbreaking to read about her struggle. I felt so bad for her, and got even more angry at Sara for how she handled the situation. (I probably would’ve reacted differently to Sara if I’d be a mother myself, now that I think of it.)
That’s what it keeps coming down to with this novel, though: the moral dilemma. What would you do if you’d be in Anna or Sara’s shoes? You won’t know until you have to actually make a choice like that yourself (which hopefully none of us will ever have to do). It’s just impossible. This all makes it seem as if this novel is all heavy and sad all the time, which isn’t the case. There are fun moments as well, although the heaviness is always present.
The one thing I didn’t really get about this novel was the subplot about Anna’s lawyer, Campbell Alexander, and her guardian ad litem, Julia Romano. I didn’t mind the focus on them, but I didn’t really get the relevance to the story. I’m also not quite sure if I agree with the ending, although I do understand why Picoult might have chosen to end it that way.
I want to write that I really enjoyed reading My Sister’s Keeper, but I don’t think “enjoy” is the right word here. I’m certainly impressed by this novel and it was a very good read. The writing was wonderful as well. However, I wouldn’t recommend reading this when you’re feeling a bit down, because it is quite a difficult and heavy story. For anyone who is up for a novel like that: do give it a go, it’s a very good novel and the story will give you lots to think about.