Jan 10, 2011

The Weeknight Book Club: My Sister's Keeper

I first started reading Jodi Picoult maybe 10 years ago.  I clearly remember being at my favourite Dymocks bookstore in the city back in Perth.  The first novel of hers I read was The Pact (WARNING: link may contain plot spoiler), about a pair of teenagers who grew up together and then fell in love and possibly into a suicide pact together.

I was hypnotized by the pace, the suspense, the use of multiple narratives, the medico legal twists.  I then went on a Jodi Picoult binge and bought every single one of her novels.

It's funny rediscovering an author some years later.  These days, I'm not so much drawn to the medical and ethical themes (though it is reassuring that none of the diagnoses or ethical issues are foreign to me). I've come back to explore Picoult's dissection of family and romantic relationships when unspeakable tragedy and difficult choices visit normal people.

I've just finished reading 'My Sister's Keeper' (another warning for this wiki link, plot spoiler) and highly recommend it.  I was disturbed to read that the film starring Cameron Diaz had an ending that was completely different to the novel's.  Which kind of defeats the purpose....

At the centre of this novel is a family in crisis and slowly dying in different ways and for different reasons.  Kate is dying of leukaemia.  A slow and painful death that is punctuated by blood products donations from her sister Anna (who was conceived to basically 'save Kate') until these are no longer enough and a kidney is needed from Anna.  Only Anna has 'had enough' - for reasons that aren't revealed to us until close to the end of the novel.  Anna and Kate's parents, Brian and Sara have struggled to raise Anna and her brother Jesse who are in the background constantly due to Kate's need for constant physical and psychological support from both her parents.

Anna files a petition in court to enable her to make medical decisions on her own.  She engages a charismatic lawyer with a past.  There is a surprise twist to the story after the final legal decision is made.

I couldn't put this one down either.  I cheated and read Wiki's plot summary because I was so keen to find out what happened.   To my mind, this only makes me more attentive to each page I read, as I search for the plot outcomes.

What I was most drawn to was Picoult's portrayal of Sara, the mother (played by Cameron Diaz in what I will call the fake movie due its completely different ending from the novel).  I found myself hating her at the beginning, with her naked desire that Anna be subjected to bone marrows, blood tests and all manner of constraints on her childhood (so that she could be 'on call' for Kate's needs) and the conviction that Anna had no say in what was being done to her body.  We get to know Sara through the novel and hate her a little less.

Anna's character isn't a martyr.  She's a teenager who is wilful yet wise, keeps secrets, is erratic and seeks fun and freedom.  Similarly, Kate just isn't a ghost like character waiting to die.  She goes through the angst of a girl in her late teens whose emotional life is held in suspended animation between catastrophic hospital admissions.

Have you read any Jodi Picoult novels?  What are your thoughts?


  1. Hi girl...
    I have not read anything from this author...
    Great tip girl:)

    Have a great Monday

  2. I LOVE Jodi Picoult SSG and had the pleasure of hearing her talk at a book reading in Brisbane. JP was delightful and I hung on her every word. My favourite is The Pact and she kindly signed my copy.

  3. I like Jodi Piccoult but can only read a book by her every few years or so. I find them a bit too melodramtic if I read too many in a row... Is that weird?

  4. I've got a tonne of her books. I rather like her, though at my age and social status, it isn't cool to read chick lit, you have to read Tolstoy and what not. Also try "Plain Truth". I really loved that book. x

  5. Saw the film...not surprised they changed the ending from the book as Hollywood likes to do that. Breakfast at Tiffany's...the ending is different than truman capote's. Its so odd why they'd do that.

  6. Hi. I read this book about a year ago, it truly is great. Picoult is a great writer. Really liked what you have written about the book. =)


  7. I've always struggled to even pick up a book by Jodi Picoult. Your review has motivated me a little more so I will try one!

  8. I hated that they changed the ending in the movie. So Hollywood. I think I've read all of her books now - except her latest. I struggled to get into it. I think I just wasn't in the right frame of mind at the time.

  9. I have read My sisters keeper & The Pact as well & enjoyed both very much . I have a few others of hers in my book collection I am yet to read...

  10. I've been wanting to read My Sister's Keeper for a long time now. Before reading the summary of My Sister's Keeper, I stayed away from Jodi Picoult thinking that such a prolific writer can't be that good. But after hearing all the praise for My Sister's Keeper, I'm eager to start on my first Jodi Picoult (after I finish the 10 or so books I borrowed from the library...) -Tracy

  11. I've read most of her books - accept now that they are always about something 'topical'. I still buy each one when it comes out though! My Sister's Keeper is my favourite - the first book of hers that I read.

  12. Thank you all for your Jodi Picoult memories.

    I love that I'm not alone in having many personal memories of when I started reading an author, why I may have stopped and how growing older can change your opinion of a novel.

    I'm going to keep posting about what I've been reading and am looking forward to more shared memories and opinions.

    SSG xxx

  13. It's years since I read this book and I haven't seen the film as I've heard such bad reviews (related to the ending).
    After reading this I'm going to find the book and re-read it. Thank you for reminding me of it. x


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