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My Sister's Keeper (Picoult) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews 
Picoult is at her best, and most moving, when writing from the perspective of Anna's mother, Sara. Exhausted by Kate's recurrent illness, Sara is often on edge and overwhelmed. But she is also focused: Her tenacity, her vigilance and her support during Kate's aggressive cancer treatments all give Kate a reason to live. Mothering takes on new meaning, and the mundane becomes surreal: Kate's goldfish, according to the oceanologist Sara consults in a desperate effort to save the pet's life, requires bottled water, and the mere thought of buying Jesse a new pair of soccer cleats after Kate relapses seems "downright obscene."
Katherine Arie - The Washington Post


The difficult choices a family must make when a child is diagnosed with a serious disease are explored with pathos and understanding in this 11th novel by Picoult (Second Glance, etc.). The author, who has taken on such controversial subjects as euthanasia (Mercy), teen suicide (The Pact) and sterilization laws (Second Glance), turns her gaze on genetic planning, the prospect of creating babies for health purposes and the ethical and moral fallout that results. Kate Fitzgerald has a rare form of leukemia. Her sister, Anna, was conceived to provide a donor match for procedures that become increasingly invasive. At 13, Anna hires a lawyer so that she can sue her parents for the right to make her own decisions about how her body is used when a kidney transplant is planned. Meanwhile, Jesse, the neglected oldest child of the family, is out setting fires, which his firefighter father, Brian, inevitably puts out. Picoult uses multiple viewpoints to reveal each character's intentions and observations, but she doesn't manage her transitions as gracefully as usual; a series of flashbacks are abrupt. Nor is Sara, the children's mother, as well developed and three-dimensional as previous Picoult protagonists. Her devotion to Kate is understandable, but her complete lack of sympathy for Anna's predicament until the trial does not ring true, nor can we buy that Sara would dust off her law degree and represent herself in such a complicated case. Nevertheless, Picoult ably explores a complex subject with bravado and clarity, and comes up with a heart-wrenching, unexpected plot twist at the book's conclusion.
Publishers Weekly


Imagine that you were conceived to be the donor of bone marrow and platelets for your older sister, who has a rare form of cancer. Imagine what it would be like to grow up in a family where everyone is constantly aware of one child's deadly illness, so that all decisions must be filtered through what will work for her treatment or her most recent medical emergency. How can a 12-year-old decide against donating a kidney to her older sister? By having this story narrated by each character in turn, Picoult (Second Glance) shows readers the dilemmas facing everyone involved: from Anna, the child who sues her parents for medical emancipation; to Sara, the mother who loves all three of her children but must devote continual attention to the daughter with cancer; and to Jesse, the son who has abandoned hope of ever being noticed by his parents. Picoult's timely and compelling novel will appeal to anyone who has thought about the morality of medical decision making and any parent who must balance the needs of different children. Highly recommended. —Kim Uden Rutter, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., IL
Library Journal


Picoult's latest chronicle of family travail (Second Glance, 2003, etc.) highlights the consequences of deliberately conceiving a child genetically compatible with a mortally ill sibling. The author vividly evokes the physical and psychic toll a desperately sick child imposes on a family, even a close and loving one like the Fitzgeralds. Picoult's plotting, though, is less sure, as an inherently somber tale morphs into a melodrama with a too-neat twist. Anna Fitzgerald, the 13-year-old who begins the story, was conceived in vitro, and her embryo's genetic makeup closely matched that of her sister Kate. Now 16, Kate was diagnosed at 2 with acute promyelocytic leukemia. In the years that followed she has suffered numerous relapses, despite the infusion of Anna's platelets and bone marrow, even stem cells from her sister's umbilical cord. Their parents, Sara and Brian, now want Anna to give Kate one of her kidneys; compromised by her drastic treatments, Kate's organs are shutting down. Instead, Anna contacts attorney Campbell Alexander and asks him to represent her; she wants her parents to stop using her body to help Kate. Like elder brother Jesse, who's turned his angst into arson and general bad-boy behavior, she has spent her life in the shadow of her sister's illness-one year Kate had to be hospitalized on every holiday. Sara, who has made keeping Kate alive her life's mission, is very angry, but Brian initially takes Anna's side, feeling too much has been asked of her. A hearing is scheduled, though Anna is torn between her affection for Kate and what she feels must be done. As the hearing begins Kate is hospitalized, Jesse's arson is discovered, and Anna initially refuses to testify.There can be no easy outcomes in a tale about individual autonomy clashing with a sibling's right to life, but Picoult thwarts our expectations in unexpected ways. Despite overplotting, then, a telling portrait of a profoundly stressed family.
Kirkus Reviews




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