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My Sister's Keeper: A Novel Hardcover – April 6, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The difficult choices a family must make when a child is diagnosed with a serious disease are explored with pathos and understanding in this 11th novel by Picoult (Second Glance, etc.). The author, who has taken on such controversial subjects as euthanasia (Mercy), teen suicide (The Pact) and sterilization laws (Second Glance), turns her gaze on genetic planning, the prospect of creating babies for health purposes and the ethical and moral fallout that results. Kate Fitzgerald has a rare form of leukemia. Her sister, Anna, was conceived to provide a donor match for procedures that become increasingly invasive. At 13, Anna hires a lawyer so that she can sue her parents for the right to make her own decisions about how her body is used when a kidney transplant is planned. Meanwhile, Jesse, the neglected oldest child of the family, is out setting fires, which his firefighter father, Brian, inevitably puts out. Picoult uses multiple viewpoints to reveal each character's intentions and observations, but she doesn't manage her transitions as gracefully as usual; a series of flashbacks are abrupt. Nor is Sara, the children's mother, as well developed and three-dimensional as previous Picoult protagonists. Her devotion to Kate is understandable, but her complete lack of sympathy for Anna's predicament until the trial does not ring true, nor can we buy that Sara would dust off her law degree and represent herself in such a complicated case. Nevertheless, Picoult ably explores a complex subject with bravado and clarity, and comes up with a heart-wrenching, unexpected plot twist at the book's conclusion.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School - Anna was genetically engineered to be a perfect match for her cancer-ridden older sister. Since birth, the 13-year-old has donated platelets, blood, her umbilical cord, and bone marrow as part of her family's struggle to lengthen Kate's life. Anna is now being considered as a kidney donor in a last-ditch attempt to save her 16-year-old sister. As this compelling story opens, Anna has hired a lawyer to represent her in a medical emancipation suit to allow her to have control over her own body. Picoult skillfully relates the ensuing drama from the points of view of the parents; Anna; Cambell, the self-absorbed lawyer; Julia, the court-appointed guardian ad litem; and Jesse, the troubled oldest child in the family. Everyone's quandary is explicated and each of the characters is fully developed. There seems to be no easy answer, and readers are likely to be sympathetic to all sides of the case. This is a real page-turner and frighteningly thought-provoking. The story shows evidence of thorough research and the unexpected twist at the end will surprise almost everyone. The novel does not answer many questions, but it sure raises some and will have teens thinking about possible answers long after they have finished the book. - Susan H. Woodcock, Fairfax County Public Library, Chantilly, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; 1st Atria Books Hardcover Ed edition (April 6, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743454529
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743454520
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,914 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #909,879 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jodi Picoult is the author of twenty-two novels, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers "The Storyteller," "Lone Wolf," "Between the Lines," "Sing You Home," "House Rules," "Handle with Care," "Change of Heart," "Nineteen Minutes," and "My Sister's Keeper." She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

249 of 275 people found the following review helpful By Eileen on April 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Jodi Picoult has masterfully covered yet another controversial topic in her novel "My Sister's Keeper." This time, young Kate is diagnosed with a severe form of leukemia. Her parents then have a baby, Anna, who is genetically selected to be a close donor match for Kate. From her birth onward into her early teens, Anna is called upon to undergo increasingly invasive and dangerous procedures to provide blood, bone marrow, and other tissues to sustain her older sister's life. Now, a kidney is needed, and Anna brings a lawsuit against her parents, claiming the right to her make own decision about what medical procedures can be performed on her. Anna's mother Sara, an attorney, decides to represent her own daughter Kate at the trial.
There are some very difficult questions raised in this story. Does Anna have the obligation to risk her own health to save her sister? Do her parents have the right to make the medical decisions about Anna's donor role, and where should their loyalties lie? Where is the fine line between what is legal and what is ethical in a situation like this? There seem to be no right or wrong answers here, and the ensuing trial recounts all the physical, moral, psychological, and familial struggles that are brought to bear on the issue. Picoult paints a powerfully emotional picture of a family in turmoil. She adds additional tension to the story through brother Jesse, whose drug taking and criminal tendencies add even more burdens to an already overwrought situation. The story also includes the love/hate relationship between Anna's lawyer and her legal guardian.
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147 of 164 people found the following review helpful By MJS on July 31, 2007
Dear God, how I hated the characters in this book.

I read My Sister's Keeper after reading a blurb about it. The topic fascinated me: what would a child conceived to "save" a sibling think as they grew older? Especially if the "saving" part went on and on and on.

The books starts with that child, Anna, going to a lawyer to get out of her role as genetic donor on call. So far, so good. It's a soapy, Lifetime movie idea but I've nothing against a soapy story. Middlemarch and War and Peace have their soapy elements too. The problem isn't the soapiness, it's that Picoult keeps adding the soap, piling on sub-plots and adding quirks to her characters until, frankly, I wanted to kill them myself. You'll rarely find a less likable group of characters than the adults on display in this book.

Campbell Alexander, the lawyer Anna hires, is standard issue "selfish, self-absorbed, morally questionable attorney who only wants to win." His quirk is that he has a service dog but HE ISN'T BLIND. Gee, I wonder what the reason could be. Seriously, is there anyone with half a brain who can't think of the one other reason an adult would have a service dog? There must be loads because Picoult treats this as a big mystery even though every chapter from Campbell's point of view has him telling someone that "Judge" (get it, a lawyer with a dog named "Judge"? Wow.) is a service dog. I wish that Judge's service job would have been to bite Campbell on the leg everytime Campbell said the words "service dog" or at least to chomp on him whenever he was a jerk but, alas, Judge just trots around witnessing this silliness.

Then there's Julia Romano, Anna's court appointed guardian and Campbell's old flame. What are the chances that these two would see each other again after he dumped her?
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334 of 386 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beveridge HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 16, 2006
Format: Paperback
Jodi Picoult, My Sister's Keeper (Washington Square Press, 2004)

Did you ever start off reading a book with a relatively high opinion of it, and then have that opinion spiral downward every few pages until it just bottomed out at the end? That's how I felt while reading My Sister's Keeper.

Picoult has a great hook-- a child, conceived for the purpose of keeping her leukemic older sister alive, sues her parents for medical emancipation-- and she starts out defining her characters well, giving us a stable of interesting people about whom to read. It all, however, goes downhill from there. Picoult has that rare and undesirable combination of a taste for melodrama and a fine ear for cliché, and it's so well-mixed that even the quotes she chooses at the beginnings of sections are fraught with both. (When you see Milton's long-trampled quote about darkness visible in a book, what's going to happen? Yes, you know.) At over four hundred pages, the writing style just wears you down. Then characters start to slip from three-dimensional model into two-dimensional archetype, and either Picoult's own prejudices, or her attempts to manipulate the reader, start to show through. The rise of this trait and the rise of the melodrama, not surprisingly, go hand in hand. As the characters get less and less three-dimensional, they get more grating. This is especially true in the case of Sara, the mother involved; by page three hundred, I was marveling that no other character in the novel had simply killed her in her sleep to put her out of everyone else's misery.

And then comes the ending.
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