The last book review I wrote, I started it off with one word… “wow”. I feel compelled to do the same for this novel, but for very different reasons.
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult is the story of Anna. Anna is 13 year’s old and was conceived in a very different way. She was conceived with in vitro fertilization to be a donor for her big sister Kate, who has a rare form of leukemia that attacks the blood and bone marrow. Initially it is just meant to be Anna’s umbilical cord blood that is needed to help Kate, but it doesn’t stop there. After 13 years of Anna being a donor and having many operations in order to help her sister, Kate’s health is still failing and she needs a kidney transplant. So Anna is told she has to give one of her kidney’s to Kate. Anna, however, wants to make her own decisions and sues her parents for medical emancipation.
Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plauged her since childhood. Anna was concieved as a bone marrow match for Kate, a life and a role that she has never questioned until now. Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to ask herself who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister – and so, Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable, a decision that will tear her family apart and perhaps have fatal consequences for the sister she loves.
Told from multiple points of view, My Sister’s Keeper examines what it means to be a good parent, a good sister, a good person. Is it morally correct to do whatever it takes to save a child’s life… even if that means infringing upon the rights of another? Should you follow your own heart, or let others lead you?
I haven’t read anything by Jodi Picoult before but if all her novels are this good and this heartbreaking then I am sold! I don’t often get teary while reading a novel but this one managed to do just that.
This story begins with Anna approaching a lawyer named Campbell Alexander asking him to help her sue her parents to the rights to her own body. Campbell is at first hesitant to take on the case but does so anyway. When Anna’s parents are served with the court papers while they are at the hospital with Kate they are horrified. Anna’s mother Sara is determined that this case will not go to court and that Anna is just attention seeking. But the issues go deeper than that so Sara, a former lawyer, decides to defend herself and her family against Anna. She argues that Anna is incapable of making her own decisions due to her age and therefore as a parent it is her responsibility to make the hard decisions for her, in this case she feels it is in Anna’s best interest to donate her kidney so her sister will live.My Sister’s Keeper showed the great lengths that a parent will go to save their child’s life. It also showed the gaps in the medical professions standards of ethics when it comes to cases such as this. Each hospital has an ethics commity that convenes to discuss and make decisions about the ethical side of medical procedures and if it is in the patients best interest to undergo such procedures. But they do not look at if it is ethical to force a child to make donations that they do not want to make, because parents have the right to make medical decisions on their children s behalf.
This story brings up so many moral, ethical and legal issues surrounding organ and tissue donation. Such as, is a child capable of making their own medical decisions? Is it really in the child’s best interest to force them to undergo a medical procedure that they do not personally need, or that does not benefit them physically in any way, in order to save another if they do not wish to go through with it? In a situation like this, are the parents actually able to make an informed decision or are they swayed by the sickness of one child over the health of another? In this case, Kate has been so sick for so long, and Anna was conceived purely to make sure that Kate lived, so are her parents really able to make the big decision of kidney donation? Is it ethically and morally okay to have a child just to save another? And if that does happen, is it then okay to submit that child to a lifetime of donations in order to keep her sister alive? Would Anna be more damaged by going through with the transplant and having to live with the affects of that, or would it be worst to lose her sister? This novel raised so many questions that really are unanswerable.
I really thought, as I was reading this novel, that I knew what was going to happen in the end. Boy, was I wrong! Jodi Picoult not only wrote a gripping story but ended it with an event that is shocking and all the more heartbreaking. I did not see this coming and I must admit, I was a little angry with her at first for doing such a thing but then I realised, it made sense.
I highly recommend this book to any who likes a story about people, families struggling with their circumstances and how hard it can be to do the right thing, when you don’t know what the right thing is, because both ways seem so wrong.
I haven’t seen the film adaption of this novel but it will be interesting to see how each character is portrayed on the screen.