I loved this book and the ending was a surprise. Highly recommended.
My sister’s keeper had been in my bookshelf for a while before I decided to read it. I was not convinced that I would like it – or rather, I was quite convinced that I would not like it – probably because of the plot. Anna is thirteen years old and her sister, Kate, suffers from a rare form of leukaemia. From the moment she was conceived, she was destined to help Kate survive. But Anna has had enough and decides to sue her parents for the right of her own body, although she knows that this decision will change their life forever.
When I read the summary, I thought Jodi Picoult’s novel was going to be one of these heart-rending stories where the author tries to make you cry from the beginning to the end; that it would be centred on Kate’s illness only to the detriment of the family and the characters; that the end would be predictable and contain no suspense. Luckily, I decided to start it anyway and I must say I was extremely surprise by how much I enjoyed it. The book was completely different from what I had imagined.
Of course, in such a story, illness has got a central part. However, I liked the was the author dealt with it because we could feel that she knew a lot about the topic although we did not have to read pages and pages of medical explanations. A few specific terms were used, but it was more to lead us into the setting than to really give information about leukaemia. So it is present along the whole story, but in the background.
We focus on Anna’s family, her own personality as well as her parents’, Kate’s and her brother’s and the relationships between these very realistic characters. Each short chapter is told by a different person, which enables us to have a different viewpoint on the events. It is an interesting narrative choice because it stops us from being on Anna’s side or against her. As the story unfolds and we share each of the characters’ experiences, we understand that such a situation is not as easy as it may seem: each person has got their reasons and sometimes there is perhaps no right or wrong.
The narrators are Anna, her parents and her brother Jesse, but we also have several chapters told by Campbell Alexander, Anna’s lawyer, and Julia Romano, the guardian ad litem appointed by the judge who has to decide what it better for the girl. Although I found it strange at the beginning, I then enjoyed having parts of the story told by characters that are not part of the family. I felt it brought reality to the story and diversion. In a way, it reminds us that no matter how hard the situation of a family is, other people around them also go on with their lives. One of the details that caught my attention was that Kate is not the narrator – except in one single chapter – despite the fact that she is the main actor in the story. I was a little disappointed at first, but after finishing it, I think it was a rather clever option.
As I said before, I appreciated the fact that the story was not tragic all the time. With such a theme, it was of course not going to be cheerful and merry, but several scenes are funny and will make us laugh. The timeline is not linear, as we have several flashbacks, which help us understand the character’s present actions.
Jodi Picoult also handles a theme which acquires more and more importance in our current life: genetic engineering. It is something subject to debate and controversy in the medical and political world nowadays and in is interesting to see how, in the story, it is also difficult to decide if it is right or wrong, good or bad. Although it does not occupy a central place in the story, several allusions are made to this matter.
The ending – which is probably what most readers will want to know before they start reading the novel – is not a happy one. Realistically, it cannot be a happy-ending. However, you will probably be taken aback by several twists and turns in the last pages, where the tension builds up until the last dramatic event occurs. I do not want to give away what happens, as it would spoil your reading, but this ending troubled me deeply. I still cannot decide if I like it or not but it clearly made me want to reread the novel with the new pieces of information I had. My sister’s keeper is an amazing novel and I was not able to put it down until I had read it all. The writing style is nice and draws us into the story, mixing different viewpoints, present and flashbacks and tragic events with comic moments. It is a perfectly balanced story and my best read in the year so far. Let us hope the cinematographic adaptation will live up to the book’s success!
There are stars in the night sky that look brighter than the others, and when you look at them through a telescope you realize you are looking at twins. The two stars rotate around each other, sometimes taking nearly a hundred years to do it. They create so much gravitational pull there's no room around for anything else.
Stars are people who are so well loved they are traced in constellations, to live forever,
like Anna and Kate, thirteen and sixteen years old sisters, whose relationship is unlike other sibling bonds.
Kate and Anna have genetic connections and they are unable to live two different lives, as two defined individuals.
Kate has acute promyelocytic leukemia and Anna was born for a very specific purpose.
She thinks she wasn't the result of a cheap bottle of wine or a full moon or the heat of the moment. She was born because a scientist managed to hook up her mother's eggs and her father's sperm to create a specific combination of precious genetic material.
She was born to save her sister, Kate and the truth is, she was never really a kid.
She thinks their parents don't really pay attention to her, except when they need her blood or something. She wouldn't even be alive, if it wasn't for Kate being sick.
She considers herself invisible and certainly she would not be part of that family: the fact that she is not sick, but she might as well be. The fact that the only reason she was born was as a harvest crop for Kate. The fact that even now, a major decision about her is being made, and no one's bothered to ask the one person who most deserves it to speak her opinion.
From the moment Anna was born, she has been the girl with the sick sister.
"You know what to wish for. Because your sister is more important than cake and ice cream; because I cannot do this for her; because I said so." her mother always told her.
Kate is going to die. It took her mother a long time to be able to say that. We all are going to die, when you get down to it, but it's not supposed to be like this. Kate ought to be the one who has to say good-bye to her.
So Anna shut her eyes tight and thought hard of remission for Kate, even though she had been planning to ask for a personal CD player, and got a nasty satisfaction out of the fact that she did not win the tug-of-war.
Because there are always sides. There is always a winner, and a loser. For every person who gets, there's someone who must give.
But Anna believes that without Kate, it's hard to remember who she is.
Their parents want to save their older daughter; they believe Anna would be a welcome addition to the family—not just because of what she would provide genetically, but also because they want to love her and watch her grow up well.
Kate is dying, and her mother wants Anna to donate one of her kidneys to Kate.
When you love someone, you'll do anything you can to keep them with you.
Anna wants Kate alive, but also want to be herself, not part of her. That she wants the chance to grow up, even if Kate can't. That Kate's death would be the worst thing that's ever happened to her… and also the best.
She also knows she is the one who can give Kate what she wants.
“Think about it, Anna. You could go to your hockey camps. You could choose a college in a whole different country. You could do anything you want and never have to worry about me." Kate said to her.
Anna always asks herself … What if I was the one who was sick? What if Kate had been asked to do what I've done? What if one of these days, some marrow or blood or whatever actually worked, and that was the end? What if I could look back on all this one day and feel good about what I did, instead of feeling guilty? What if the judge doesn't think I'm right?
And even if the law says that no one is responsible for anyone else, helping someone who needs it is the right thing to do.
There are some things we do because we convince ourselves it would be better for everyone involved. We tell ourselves that it's the right thing to do, the altruistic thing to do. It's far easier than telling ourselves the truth.
But life sometimes gets so bogged down in the details, you forget you are living it.
There is always another appointment to be met, another bill to pay, another symptom presenting, another uneventful day to be notched onto the wooden wall. We have synchronized our watches, studied our calendars, existed in minutes, and completely forgotten to step back and see what we've accomplished.
Darkness s relative.