*Book with adult themes or subject matter*
Anybody who has seen commercials for this movie or heard anything about this book, knows that this book deals with cancer, stem cell research, genetically engineered babies, family dynamics, drugs, and the legal system. I somewhat feel that the label above should be obvious unless you’re living under a rock, but I’ve been told that people are not always as aware of books as I am. So there you have it, the label and the reasons.
This is not typically the type of book that I read but my friend suggested it to me. She thought that I would like it and I rather trust her opinion since she’s known me for somewhere around 12 years. Jodi Picoult has managed to write this book from the perspective of everyone in the family, a lawyer, and a guardian ad litum. Which, given the fact that most people don’t write in the first person, let alone in first person through 6 people, I found fascinating. It made it more real and more honest I think.
The basics: Kate has APL (a type of rare cancer that has a low rate of survival). She was diagnosed at the age of two. Her father (Brian), mother (Sara), and older brother (Jesse) were tested but there was no donor match. So, the parents decided to look at genetics and have another baby in order for Kate to have donor match. This baby’s name is Anna. Brian is a fire fighter who loves astronomy, loves his kids, and feels a touch lost. Sara is a mother struggling with a daughter who is almost constantly on the verge of dying and two kids who are screaming for help. Jesse is a young man who feels invisible and does everything from drugs and drinking to playing with fire to get his family’s attention. Anna and Kate are so close that they might as well be twins. One doesn’t seem to exist in the family without the other. Every time Kate is hurt or sick, Anna donates. The sisters are sisters, best friends, and the reason the other is alive. Anna decides to sue her family for medical emancipation and gets herself a lawyer (Campbell). The case goes to trial and a guardian ad litum (Julia) is assigned to help figure out the whole mess.
If I tell you much more about the basic plot, I’ll be giving away the ending, and really the ending is too beautifully done to give it away. Many people will tell you that they don’t like the ending. Everything doesn’t end sugary sweet. However, it does end in a way that is consistent with the sense of reality this book portrays. And no, it is not what you expect most likely.
I found Picoult’s characters to be incredibly likable. I started out decidedly not liking Sara, but by the end I really felt sympathetic towards the woman. I instantly liked the Brian, Jesse, Kate, and Anna. I was up in the air with Campbell and Julia for a bit but as we get more and more of their back story you really grow to love the two of them. Campbell, by the way, is the humour in the book in a lot of ways. It was killing me that I didn’t know what his dog was for until the end. He had more excuses for Judge (because what lawyer wouldn’t want to put a judge in a cage every once in a while) than my high school students for not turning in their work. This book ultimately isn’t about the illness of one little girl but about the secrets and problems that tear people apart and the things that bring people together.
It is a rare book and I would recommend that everyone over the age of 16 read it.