Tessa: I recently finished reading My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult and The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards. Both of these books are coincidentally New York Times Bestseller’s and both of them are tearjerkers. So if you’re looking to give gifts this Christmas that are guarenteed to reduce friends and family members to tears then be sure to pick up a copy of either of these two and that should do the trick.
I’ll start with My Sister’s Keeper. Although Jodi Picoult has written several novels, I had never actually heard of her but a friend lent it to me urging me to read it so we could discuss it afterwards. Admittedly I had a hard time putting this book down. The story is about two sisters Anna and Kate. At the age of two Kate is diagnosed with leukemia. Through preimplantation genetic diagnosis Anna is conceived as a perfect bone marrow match for her sister and until the age of thirteen unquestioningly allows herself to be subjected to countless transfusions, surgeries and shots. But by thirteen Anna begins to question the trauma of these endless rounds of hospital procedures. When Anna’s parents offer her kidney for transplant to Kate Anna initiates legal action against her parents for medical guardianship over her own body. It’s clear that although a hospital would never compromise a healthy child to save a dying child, Anna’s permission is never asked. Her parents take it for granted that she will subject herself to procedure after procedure for Kate.
At the heart of this narrative is the issue of medical technology and this is a topic that Picoult navigates her way around very well. Having been a parent of a very sick child she is able to draw the reader into the emotionally charged and tortured journey that families of very sick children are forced to make. The choices clearly aren’t easy and when Anna’s mother pushes the envelope in favour of her dying daughter she at times appears monstrously one-sided and blind to Anna’s needs as a human being. In the end Anna was conceived as a donor to save her sister’s life. What her mother neglects to understand is that her daughter is a human being first.
The premise of this story is timely, as the long term implications of stem cell research unfolds in the American political arena. But like all issues, we as a society, are increasingly blindsided by ethical implications of medical technology. This book certainly has its weaknesses, namely the uneven and sometimes ludicrous characterizations of Campbell Anna’s lawyer, and the fact that Anna and Kate’s mother after years of being a stay at home mom returns to court to handle her own case against her daughter. Perhaps this is done to add levity to an emotionally charged topic that stands at the centre of this narrative. Overall, however, this is a riveting book that is sure to generate debate and yes, tears.
Next book review: The Memory Keeper’s Daughter