“It made me wonder, though, what would have happened if Kate had been healthy. […] Certainly I would not be part of this family. See, unlike the rest of the free world, I didn’t get here by accident. And if your parents have you for a reason, then that reason better exist. Because once it’s gone, so are you” (8).
My parents’ neighbours have a little free library that they roll outside every morning and roll back inside every evening. It is mostly full of Dutch books of every genre imaginable. However I did find an English copy of My Sister’s Keeper a few months ago. Since I was impressed by the movie, I was really happy I got my hands on this book.
Most of you will probably be familiar with the plot, but I will give a short synopsis anyway. Thirteen-year-old Anna has undergone countless of procedures to help save her older sister Kate. Kate has been battling leukemia since she was two. Anna is a designer baby conceived in order to be a bone marrow donor for Kate. Anna’s life and that of her entire family revolve around Kate’s health. When Kate needs one of Anna’s kidneys to survive, Anna sues her parents for the rights to her own body.
The plot is of course major tearjerker material. The novel depicts a family that was broken long before Anna made her claim. Yet, though it is a heart-wrenching story, I didn’t get as emotionally involved as I expected to be. This might be because of the story going back and forth in time and the numerous switches between characters’ voices. Still at times I had to swallow my tears. All characters are well-rounded and realistically portrayed. It is not difficult to imagine yourself in their shoes.
My Sister’s Keeper is written from multiple perspectives: Anna, Anna’s older brother, her mother, her father, her lawyer and her guardian who helps her during her court process. It is clear from the start that none of these voices can be trusted. Anna herself warns the reader: “you shouldn’t believe what you hear about me, least of all that which I tell you myself” (10). A major theme in this novel is therefore doubt. While reading, I had so many questions. What are the characters really thinking? Who is telling the truth? What secrets are the characters keeping? What is the right decision? As a reader you almost feel like you are the judge; you have to make up your own mind about what is right and what is wrong.
Jodi Picoult did an amazing job raising a big moral problem. How far are parents allowed to go in order to save a child? Is a child able to make a decision that will affect her entire life and will end the life of someone she loves? The ending of this novel surprised me. Although a verdict was reached and Anna came to a conclusion, the consequences never actually came to pass. It keeps you pondering about the what ifs. This is a fascinating book.
Picoult, Jodi. My Sister’s Keeper. New York, London, Toronto & Sydney: Washington Square Press, 2004.