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

4.2 out of 5 stars 2,038 customer reviews

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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: 423 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; 1st 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 (2,038 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #775,279 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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2 Comments 253 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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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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27 Comments 191 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
I am a living kidney donor, and hoped this book would raise awareness. However, it so misepresents the medicine and ethics of living organ donation that I was completely disgusted.

First of all, no one can be forced to donate organs. The ethics are very clear that the DONOR'S interests are primary, not the recipient's, regardless of a family's wishes. The transplant team grilled me very thoroughly about my motives and desire to donate, and repeatedly offered me opportunities to withdraw, right up to the last minute. If I had backed out, the recipient would simply have been told that the staff had eliminated me as a donor candidate based on medical concerns. No one would know that I simply did not want to donate, and no one would try to convince me to donate. My surgeon made it clear that he represented my interests, not the recipient's. This is all standard procedure -- the accepted ethical practices of living organ donation.

It isn't easy for an adult to volunteer to donate and make it through screening, and it is almost impossible for a minor. I participated in a living donor website for years, and many who posted were minors who wanted to donate to a parent or sibling, and were refused flat out -- not even evaluated. A more honest novel might have a minor going to court to get permission to donate!

Further, you don't need an exact genetic match for a kidney or solid organ, the way you do for bone marrow. The anti-rejection drugs are so good that parents, other relatives, friends or a total stranger could perfectly well donate a kidney -- no need to force a child to do it. I was a zero match for my recipient and the kidney has been going strong for years now with no problems.
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