by Jodi Picoult (Washington Square Press, 2004)
I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been slowly slogging through Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, and Other Invisible Illnesses: The Comprehensive Guide. But I took time out to read My Sister’s Keeper, which I has been on my to-read list for a while (possibly not on this blog, but in my head). It took hold of me like some kind of flesh-eating bacteria. I could hardly put it down; I read the 423 pages in just a few days.
The book is the story of the Fitzgerald family–Brian and Sara and their children, Jesse, Kate, and Anna–and the lawsuit that Anna brings against her parents to prevent them from forcing her to donate a kidney to Kate, who suffers from a usually fatal form of leukemia. The story is seen from the perspectives of all of these characters, and also those of the lawyer and the guardian ad litem, a person appointed by the court to get to know the plaintiff, her family, and the situation in order that she might make an informed but objective recommendation to the judge. Each chapter is written in the first person from the point of view of one of these characters, at a certain point in time (or in the week or so between Anna’s hiring the lawyer and the verdict of the court), and each character has his or her distinct font. The reader is drawn into the stories of each character and comes to care about all of them.
The book raises a number of serious ethical questions (example: Is it right to conceive a child for the purpose of saving the life of another child?), and there may be no good answers. But Picoult gets you to ponder them.
If there was anything I didn’t like, it is perhaps that the (surprise) ending is a little too pat. (No spoiler here; you will have to read it yourself.)
Advanced non-native readers will not find particularly difficult language, and the chapters are mostly short, but it’s a really long book for a slow reader. On the other hand, if it grabs your interest the way it grabbed mine, you may find yourself reading faster than you usually do because you want to know what will happen next!