Friday, September 12, 2008

My Sister's Keeper, by Jodi Picoult

The theme is an interesting and important one. Kate, a very young child, suffers from a rare, aggressive cancer. Her best hope is to get cord blood and possibly a bone marrow transplant from a matched donor. Her parents go through in-vitro fertilization with a fertilized egg that matches the sick child's in the important aspects. Anna is born to save Kate.

Anna's body is used several times over the years, requiring Anna to enter the hospital for minor to more major operations. When she is thirteen and asked to offer a kidney to her sister, Anna rebels. Her form of rebellion involves engaging a lawyer to obtain "medical emancipation" so she can make her own decisions about how her body is used.

The chief issue is one of consent. Through the years Anna's parents, and particularly her mother, have simply assumed Anna is willing to offer what she can to save her sister's life. Understandably, Anna has come to think of herself in some respects as invisible.

Anna is a strong character but she doesn't always express herself well. Through much of the book others speak for her, spelling out her need for the freedom to choose. It grated on me that she did not make these arguments particularly well, or at all, herself.

Anna's lawyer is an interesting character as well. He has a service dog with him but is always giving clearly false reasons for the dog: I'm color-blind so he lets me know when the light is green. I'm deaf in one ear so he alerts me when I need to hear something on that side. Some of the reasons are funny, others lame. I had difficulty understanding why he took Anna's case, however, with such flimsy reasoning from Anna herself. Further, as the case proceeds, Anna waffles back and forth yet he does not throw up his hands and say never mind. I can't grasp why he is so interested in the case or why he stays with it when his client does not really seem clear on her own motives.

The court hearing on Anna's medical emancipation didn't read quite feel real to me. The court procedures seemed pretty casual and the lawyers did not prepare their witnesses. It seemed more than strange to me that they did not go over testimony ahead of time but just assumed.

Although I found the story interesting and at times informative I also felt at times that circumstances and conversations were bordering on trite and predictable. These moments did not take it into the land of chick lit or worse, however. They merely assured me that it's a good but not a great book.

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