Book Banter: My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

my sister keeperTitle: My Sister’s Keeper
Author: Jodi Picoult
Genre:  Women’s Fiction
Length: 448 pages
Where Stacie’s Copy Came From: Personal collection
Plot Basics:  Thirteen year old Anna hires Campbell Alexander, a lawyer, to sue her parents for medical emancipation. Her sister Kate has a rare form of cancer, and every decision in the family’s life has been made to keep Kate alive. Every decision — not just the medical ones — including Anna’s conception.

Banter Points:  Jodi Picoult books are either perfect for my frame of mind, or completely wretched. There is no in-between. I read one about one every five years or so, because they are emotionally draining. I keep doing it because I like the challenges that she puts in front of me as an author.

This title was perfect for my frame of mind. I learned something new about my own views on the world, and while an emotionally draining topic, it was one that (thankfully) I haven’t experienced in my life.

I cannot begin to imagine what it would be like to make every decision for my own family with the goal of keeping one of the members alive. In a way, I make decisions constantly about what is best for my family, but they include the easy things like food, clothing, shelter, values (tough enough on their own.) In Anna’s family, everything is done because of Kate, and it is apparent in the telling. The story is relayed through multiple voices which I was glad to see here. I don’t think that the story would have been effective if told only through Anna’s voice or her antagonist’s voice, her mother. Everyone in the family had a piece of the telling and therefore, sharing of how their life was subverted to Kate’s needs. The coping methods used, the dreams that have had to be released. The telling was beautiful.

As a character, Anna reminded me of my own pair of teens, that poignant mix of grown-up views and understanding, mixed childish behaviors and dreams. It made her very real in my mind, especially knowing that my own teens have had startling revelations about adults in their lives.

Two of the story tellers are outside parties, Campbell and Julia. Campbell is the lawyer that Anna hires, and Julia is the guardian ad litem appointed to the case. The pair of them add to the story by being Anna’s grown-up voice, while fighting their own battles and life-choices. I really enjoyed Campbell’s character. As Anna’s lawyer, he wants to stay in the role of legal advise only, but falls into acting as a personal advisor as well. He tries to get to know her, as Julia has suggested he do, and those conversations endured him to me. He wants to hold back, yet cannot complete resist Anna’s personality.

Bummer Points:  I was really disappointed in Anna’s mother, Sara. I really wanted to find her sympathetic, but could not. She pursued Kate’s life to the detriment of her family. I understand the sacrifice and choices made, and why she felt they were right, but I could not empathize with her decisions. At times, I didn’t completely respect them either. I am grateful that I haven’t been in her role, and reading this book gave me a chance to think about what I would have done in her place. Her steadfast focus on the finish line, without knowing what that really means other than extending Kate’s life, against the sacrifice of the family members, often unseen or unknown to her, was something that I found to be hard to accept. It is the central conflict in the novel, and I’m trying to find the middle ground of compromise that would have allowed her to be sympathetic to me.

Stacie’s Recommendation: This may be a good title for you. It could be a good book club selection. Like any of Picoult’s books, it is thought provoking.


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