My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult: I finished this book on an airplane, all hunched over in seat 16D, hoping my hair would disguise the fact that I was totally bawling. I haven’t cried at a book in many years, though I knew this one would probably be a tear-jerker from the beginning. After all, it’s a premise straight from a Lifetime Original Movie: Kate is diagnosed with a rare and particularly nasty form of leukemia at age 2, and after much deliberation her parents decide to concieve a genetically engineered child to be a perfect match for their sick daughter. And so Anna is born for her umbilical cord, her blood, her bone marrow. As the story begins, Anna is 13 years old and has decided that she doesn’t want to be an automatic donor anymore.

It’s a brilliantly written book, but very hard to take sometimes. Picoult did an excellent job of portraying the heartache of being part of a family wiuth a sick child without getting too sappy, too outrageous, or too grandiose. Make no mistake, this is a book full of Big Questions about the sanctity of life versus control over one’s own body, but it doesn’t beat you over the head with it or force the reader to take a certain side. It’s one of those rare stories that put me in the shoes of several characters that are (fortunately) completely alien to me while still allowing me to make up my own mind about their actions. It gave me quite a bit to think about, and that’s some of the highest praise I can give any book.

I won’t promise that everyone will like this book. A lot of people will see it as nothing more than a weepy family drama and dismiss it out of hand. But it does raise some serious issues, issues most of us – especially with the continued advances in medical technology – will have to face someday: when is it time to stop trying and start saying goodbye?

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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