My Sister’s Keeper
by Jodi Picoult
My Sister’s Keeper
is a very powerful and moving story. This novel deals with family
tragedy and how different members of the family are affected by it.
Specifically, it is a story about a girl with a serious illness and the
impact her leukemia has on her family. At the beginning, the parents
seek more typical solutions to extend their daughter’s life. As the
story develops however, the novel becomes more complex as it talks
about some very important topics. Deciding to have another child, who
is a perfect genetic match for their sick child, represents a major
issue. This is such a powerful book because it deals with genetic
engineering, a highly debated topic. This book clearly shows that there
are no easy answers and no clear right or wrong ways of approaching
this issue. There is conflict everywhere as all the members of the
family struggle with how to best deal with this genetic manipulation.
The book is moving because it very much affects your emotions.
starts when Kate screams in the bathroom. I race upstairs and jimmy the
lock to find my nine-year old standing in front of a toilet splattered
with blood. Blood runs down her legs too and has soaked through her
underpants. This is the calling card for APL—hemorrhage in all sorts of
masks and disguises. Kate’s had rectal bleeding before, but she was a
toddler; she would not remember. “It’s all right,” I say calmly. I get
a warm washcloth to clean her up, and find a sanitary napkin for her
underwear. I watch her try to position the bulk of pads between her
legs. This is the moment I would have had with her when she got her
period; will she live long enough for that?” (p 224 – Sara).
story which takes place in modern day Long Island, deals with the
illness of 16-year old Kate, who has suffered from leukemia most of her
life. Trying to save their daughter, Kate’s parents, Sara and Brian,
decide to have another baby whom they name Anna. She is a perfect
combination of genetic material matched with the genetics of her
sister. Anna’s parents use Anna’s umbilical cord to provide the life
support needed to keep Kate alive. Unfortunately, this one procedure is
not enough to save Kate. Over the course of the next 13 years, Anna is
forced to undergo many medical procedures to help keep her sister
alive. She donates blood, bone marrow and other bodily parts to keep
her sister from dying. During these tough times, Anna’s older brother
Jesse grows angry about all the attention being paid to Kate and he
begins to act out and distances himself from his family.
she gets older and starts to think on her own, Anna believes she is
being used. She wants to make her own decisions about helping her
sister. The conflict rests in Kate’s desire to take control over her
own body, but at the same time manage her concern about losing her
sister if she does not cooperate. Anna loves Kate, and does not want
her to die but at the same time does not want to be “her sister’s
keeper.” Therefore, Anna seeks out Campbell, a lawyer, to help her with
an important decision.
I was little the great mystery to me wasn’t how babies were made but
why. The mechanics I understood – my older brother Jess had filled me
in – although at the time I was sure he’d heard half of it wrong. Other
kids my age were busy looking up the words penis or vagina in the
classroom dictionary when the teacher had her back turned but I paid
attention to different details. Like why some mothers only had one
child while other families seemed to multiply before your eyes.” (p 7 –
important themes in the book deal with family and individuality.
Although they are part of the same family, the individuals cannot seem
to get along as a unit. Kate is very sick and struggling to stay alive.
Sara, the mother, is a strong character trying to do everything
possible to save her dying daughter even if it means risking the
happiness of the rest of the family. Brian, the father, is quiet and
constantly escapes to his world at the fire station to hide from all
his troubles. Anna, the youngest child, is the central character of the
story and struggles throughout the book between doing what she views as
right and wrong. She truly loves her sister, and wants her to live, but
she feels that only one of them can live. It is either Kate or herself,
and she chooses a life of her own. Jesse is the older sibling who
cannot deal with his life, and pulls himself away from everyone and
rebels. The parents are torn in many directions – trying to save their
dying daughter, yet wanting to pay attention to the other children and
lead a more normal life. The siblings try to get along but are
constantly arguing because of Kate’s illness.
other major theme deals with individuality. Anna especially, wants very
much to be her own person. She wants to be free to act on her own and
not always be a part of her sister’s life. She does not want to live in
her sister’s shadow and not enjoy a normal life because of her sister’s
illness. She wants to make her own decisions even if it hurts others.
She does not want people to take advantage of her just because she has
the right genes. She wants to be valued for her own self, not for being
a donor. Jesse also wants attention. He wants people to appreciate him
for who he is. He tries so very hard to gain attention by completely
secluding himself from his family. He winds up sleeping above the
garage, as if he is a stranger.
book reminds me of a time in my family’s life three years ago when we
experienced something very serious. My older brother, Terence, was
injured in a ski accident in Maine and was in the hospital in Intensive
Care for many weeks. He was put on a ventilator because he could not
breathe on his own with chest tubes pumping blood from his lungs for
weeks. Terence had many, many infections. He was in a coma hooked up to
machines to keep him alive. The hospital, in which he was located, was
300 miles away from home. My mom and dad were by his bedside for many
weeks waiting for him to get better. During this time it was very scary
because my siblings and I did not know would happen to my brother and
we did not see our parents. Our nanny took care of us, but we were
worried and missed our brother and parents. When Terence finally came
home, he looked awful, thin, weak, and unable to get around too well.
Although the situation in this book is more serious and more tragic, it
expresses many of the same feelings I had during my brother’s illness –
fear, concern, caring, anger, being forgotten.
Picoult writes the book from the perspectives of all the characters.
This style truly allows the reader to see both sides of the conflict,
because each character has a different view on the story. I believe
that mother’s would be able to relate to Sara’s point of view in many
ways. Sara is trying to do what is best for her dying daughter and
therefore sides with Kate.
husband is very confused, and eventually decides to help Anna, but not
completely defend her. I am sure that many women have had cases where
they do not agree with their husbands, such as this one. I also think
this book would be very suitable for anyone with a sister. Kate and
Anna have a very tight relationship, which other girls could relate.
The ending really surprises the reader because Kate and Anna have a
secret of their own. I would recommend this to all people over 13 years
of age. There are many advanced scientific concepts that children under
the age of 13 might not understand.
give this novel the highest rating – three out of three stars. Jodi
Picoult grabs the reader from the very beginning with her amazing
story. She researched the topic of cancer and donor information in
great detail to make the story realistic. She presents the characters
and their conflicts in a very convincing manner and she keeps the
reader’s interest throughout the book. Jodi Picoult is such an amazing
author that she sways the reader’s emotions with her words. This book
affected my emotions so much that I cried at the end. It is a must