First published in America by Atria in April 2004.
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How I got this book:
Borrowed from my sister
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Anna Fitzgerald doesn't want her sister to die. But she's sick of helping her to live. Anna was born to be a perfect genetic match for Kate, who at just two years old was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia. For thirteen years, she has acted as donor to her sister. Now, Kate needs a kidney, and nobody is asking Anna how she feels about it, they're just assuming she will donate. Until the Sheriff serves the papers that will rock their family's world: Anna is suing her parents for the rights to her own body.
I borrowed My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult from my own sister who said it was a very emotional book. Picoult delves into the ethical and moral minefields caused by creating genetically designed babies. The youngest daughter of her imagined Fitzgerald family, Anna, was conceived solely in order to provide 'spare parts' for elder sister Kate who is dying from leukaemia. However, by the time she turns thirteen, Anna is fed up with repeated hospital visits and invasive operations so takes out a lawsuit to prevent any more of her body being harvested for Kate's benefit. The ensuing arguments threaten to tear the whole family apart.
Family members take turns narrating chapters throughout the novel so the story unravels from multiple perspectives. Unfortunately everyone speaks remarkably similarly so I often lost track of whose chapter I was reading. Picoult's prose is very manipulative too. This is an incredibly emotionally charged subject, but as readers we are subjected to extra tugs through plot devices such as the father's career as a heroic firefighter - at one point he really does rush into an inferno to rescue a toddler. Anna's completely unprofessional legal team seem to spend more time resurrecting their abruptly halted college romance than fighting for her rights - the pair hadn't seen each other for fifteen years until they just happened to be thrown together for this one case. And of course, Anna's mother used to be a hotshot lawyer herself until she sacrificed her career for her children.
Her Sister's Keeper could and should have been an excellent novel confronting a hugely important contemporary issue. However I found it mawkish and frequently so sentimental as to be nauseating! There is a good story underneath, but it needs far stronger characters and greater subtlety with those emotional hammers to be convincing. Oh, and don't read the last chapter. Stop when the court case finishes because the real ending is just dire!
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Books by Jodi Picoult / Women's fiction / Books from America