My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Final Ruling: 5/5 stars

Okay, let me preface this with the fact that I don’t usually read books like this. Like at all. But somehow, I found myself devouring this book with ardor. Okay, so I know that there are a lot of mixed feelings out there about this book and its ending, but I am so passionate in my love for this story, that I cannot possibly think of this work negatively. The moral grey area, the impossible questions, the vivid characters, and the intense plot lines all come together to form a supernova of a story that I seriously could not put down.

Let’s start with the moral grey areas that make up the whole premise of the book: a catch-22 in which saving one sister kills the other. It is an impossible choice that the Fitzgerald parents have to make when their daughter Anna confronts them with a lawsuit stating that she absolutely refuses to be torn apart to save her sister anymore, which is what she literally was born to do. This, of course, brings up a plethora of moral issues, the most evident to me being, is the idea of a “spare parts baby” okay? Is designing a child to tear apart in order to save another really something that we can condone? How far is too far when it comes to saving a child? If the circumstances are severe enough, is euthanasia a viable option? All of these qualms and more are brought up within the pages of My Sister’s Keeper. Picoult beautifully sets the scene: a family of 5, struggling through the fact that one of their children has an extremely aggressive form of leukemia. Against this background, she gives the reader all of the facts, and allows them to draw their own conclusions about the issue. The points of view are evenly distributed through the cast of characters, and the author shows no obvious preference for anybody, effectively allowing the reader to take whatever side they choose and follow their views on the issue all the way to the end of the story. It is truly a rare piece of literature that does not show clear bias and allows the reader to draw their own conclusions. Now, this blog is not in any way, a soap-box, so my personal feelings on the issue don’t really matter here; what matters is the fact that Picoult steps aside and allows the reader to make their own informed decision, which is truly an amazing thing. Kudos to Miss Jodi for putting something like this out into the world, teaching people not only about the illness that Kate is suffering from, but also about the legal process when it comes to situations like this, and the emotional truth of all the people involved, not just the “main character”.

Okay, enough about that, let’s get down to the most controversial element of the piece: that plot twist. If you don’t want spoilers, please please please skip the following paragraph (typed in italics), I don’t want to ruin anybody’s reading experience (I know I would hate to have it ruined).

Okay, time to get down to it! that plot twist was completely unexpected, shocking, and (I’m not afraid to say) made me cry, like the ugly bawling kind of crying. The way that it was introduced was such an epic slap in the face, I couldn’t breathe after I read it. Seriously, my mom was sitting next to me and I made this like choked squeak noise and she totally freaked out, thinking something had happened to me. And my goodness did it ever. It was a total shock. Now that I look back on it, the entire novel kind of set the scene for the ending. Brian, Anna and Kate’s father, was the one to find them. He is a firefighter, and throughout the book, he is called in via radio to tend to big car crashes, so when he is called away from the hospital for yet another MVC, it seems completely normal. Up until the time he crawls into the car to save those involved in the crash, he doesn’t even know it is his daughter Anna, riding in the passenger seat with her lawyer, who has fallen victim to the whims of the universe. After that, he falls apart, seriously falls apart, as does Campbell, the lawyer, who by some miracle survived the crash while Anna did not. It was heartbreaking to read, absolutely and completely heartbreaking. So, with Anna’s brain death following the crash, she does end up surrendering her kidney, which she fought so hard to keep from her sister (hence the lawyer and separate living and everything). Anyways, the kidney does end up saving Kate’s life, and she goes on to live that life very happily. From the very beginning, I knew that one of the sisters would die, I just expected it to be Kate. So when Anna was the one to die, it totally blindsided me. Now, some people call the author’s decision to kill Anna and give Kate the kidney anyways, regardless of the fact that Anna did win the case, a cop-out. But, in fact, it is the opposite. It allows the reader, whatever side they decided to be on, draw the same conclusion, as well as begin to embrace the concept of inevitability and fate. Perhaps Anna was meant to be nothing more than a spare parts child, perhaps she was meant to give her kidney so that Kate could live, perhaps when it looked like she would not give said kidney, the universe interfered. 

I would recommend this book to anybody with an open heart and mind, anybody not afraid of seeing an issue from both sides and drawing their own conclusions without the guidance of the author.