Saturday, June 03, 2006

Reading record: My Sister's Keeper

This book by Jodi Picoult is rather different to what I usually read, which tends to be S-F, fantasy and detective/crime thrillers. I read the blurb on the back and I thought it was an interesting idea, and the ethical issues it brings up sold me on reading it.

It's about a family whose eldest daughter suffers from a very aggressive form of leukaemia, and they choose to have another child, genetically compatible with her, in order to help her fight against the cancer. A designer baby if you like. At first Anna their donor daughter's birth provides cord blood to help put Kate into remission. As she grows older, however, blood and bone marrow are needed when Kate relapses. Unlike the cord blood donation, these are invasive, painful procedures and pose some risk to Anna. But Kate's life is at stake.

At 13, Anna's kidney is needed and it is at this point, that Anna gets herself a lawyer and asks to be medically emancipated from her parents.

The story is told from various viewpoints, in first person, and jumps around in time periods for the backstory. I noticed early on the omission of Kate's narrative voice, so suspected one of the twists of the story.

I thought it was well-written, as all the characters of the family were sympathetically portrayed and you could understand and empathise with them. The pulls between wishing to save a sibling & wishing to be free of obligation, the difficulties of living in a family which has started to implode from the perpetual stresses, fears and demands of the sickness of one member were all well-drawn.

I felt that the plotline with the lawyer, Campbell, and the guardian ad litem, Julia, was superfluous, really. The love story/mystery ailment just seemed unnecessary.

It was all about choices over your own body, parent/child relationships, and how to balance the needs of one child against those of another. It threw up some interesting questions.

Spoilers in background colour:
I felt Anna's concealed motivation of Kate's desire to give up the struggle was believable. I was disappointed in the ending, however, I felt it was a cop-out to have Anna die in a car-crash and therefore save her sister.

1 comment:

Abby said...

I haven't read it but it was recommended by a friend of mine who lost her terminally ill sister in childhood, so the book had a resonance for her. I would like to read it. I have read her book all about a man who is accused of rape, but it didn't end very well at all... it was left hanging as to whether a crime had been committed, and I hate books like that, ending without resolution.