I’ve avoided reading anything by Joid Picoult for quite a long time. She’s widely read and I know a lot of people gobble up her book like candy. But usually when I hear about an author gaining huge acclaim for being able to worm her way into people’s hearts, I get a bit weary. I guess the teenage rebel in me still feels like she can’t like anything that goes too main stream. Even more, I’ve heard a lot of critiques of Picoult’s work being too “formulaic.” I don’t know how much truth this claim has, but I don’t like the idea of authors developing a formula to guide their writing.
But then My Sister’s Keeper was chosen as one of the summer reading picks and so I didn’t really have a choice. I had to read it. And I’m going to say that it wasn’t quite what I expected. I knew the gist of the story line from seeing commercials for the movie adaptation that starred Cameron Diaz. For those of you who don’t know anything about the book, here’s a fabulous summary from Goodreads:
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 plagued her since childhood. The product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate—a life and a role that she has never challenged…until now. Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question 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 have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves.
This book started off my summer. Right after I graded the last final, I got sick. And I spent about a week in bed trying to recuperate. I went through the motions of napping, watching episodes of Mad Men, and reading this book. And all of these activities had me absolutely captivated. There were definite times during the novel when I couldn’t put my iPad down. I had to keep reading. I needed to know what was going to happen next. I loved the whirlwind of emotions and sympathies that this novel created in me. I found myself confused because I couldn’t really decide who to actually root for because everyone was so right and wrong at the same time.
But I think that I have to say after finishing the novel that Anna emerged as the definite star for me. She isn’t perfect. She’s so young and naive. She doesn’t really know what she wants. But that is why I found myself sympathizing with her the most. No one in the novel really had anything figured out. But they all were running around acting like they did. Anna acknowledged that she didn’t and so she had the greatest chance of actually figuring anything out.
All in all, I would actually recognize this book because it asks people to closely examine their ideas about what it means to be a sister, a mother, a person. This book asks us all to look inside and think about who we are in the world and who we want to be in the world. I would say that this would definitely make a great book club books as there are a lot of very serious issues that can be discussed in depth. Even more, the multiple narrators ensure that there is a little something for everyone.
I don’t know if this book necessarily made me a huge Jodi Picoult fan but I did really enjoy the story. In so many ways it was haunting and has stayed with me. The ending through me for a complete loop and had me weeping. Still, I enjoyed the tears because even though I didn’t LOVE the ending, I understand the ending. And I found that many of my students also enjoyed the novel. I’m not sure it necessarily fits into the American Literature curriculum as smoothly as I had hoped our summer reading choice might, but it did seem to actually reel in a lot of students who were pretty eager to talk about the book. And ultimately, I just want to share the gift of reading and start interesting conversations about topics that matter to my students so I’d say that this book was a success in this department.
Have you read this book? Did you love it or hate it? Are you a Jodi Picoult fan? If so, what is your favorite novel of hers? I’m always open to hearing your thoughts and recommendations, dear readers.
© 2013, Jennifer Lesnick. All rights reserved.