Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate—a life and a role that she has never challenged...until now. Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister—and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable, a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves.
My Sister’s Keeper examines what it means to be a good parent, a good sister, a good person. Is it morally correct to do whatever it takes to save a child’s life, even if that means infringing upon the rights of another? Is it worth trying to discover who you really are, if that quest makes you like yourself less? Should you follow your own heart, or let others lead you? Once again, in My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult tackles a controversial real-life subject with grace, wisdom, and sensitivity.
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About the Author
Hometown:Hanover, New Hampshire
Date of Birth:May 19, 1966
Place of Birth:Nesconset, Long Island, NY
Education:A.B. in Creative Writing, Princeton University; M.A. in Education, Harvard University
Read an Excerpt
Chapter One: Anna
When I was little, the great mystery to me wasn't how babies were made, but why. The mechanics I understood -- my older brother Jesse had filled me in -- although at the time I was sure he'd heard half of it wrong. Other kids my age were busy looking up the words penis and vagina in the classroom dictionary when the teacher had her back turned, but I paid attention to different details. Like why some mothers only had one child, while other families seemed to multiply before your eyes. Or how the new girl in school, Sedona, told anyone who'd listen that she was named for the place where her parents were vacationing when they made her ("Good thing they weren't staying in Jersey City," my father used to say).
Now that I am thirteen, these distinctions are only more complicated: the eighth-grader who dropped out of school because she got into trouble; a neighbor who got herself pregnant in the hopes it would keep her husband from filing for divorce. I'm telling you, if aliens landed on earth today and took a good hard look at why babies get born, they'd conclude that most people have children by accident, or because they drink too much on a certain night, or because birth control isn't one hundred percent, or for a thousand other reasons that really aren't very flattering.
On the other hand, I was born for a very specific purpose. I wasn't the result of a cheap bottle of wine or a full moon or the heat of the moment. I was born because a scientist managed to hook up my mother's eggs and my father's sperm to create a specific combination of precious genetic material. In fact, when Jesse told me how babies get made and I, the great disbeliever, decided to ask my parents the truth, I got more than I bargained for. They sat me down and told me all the usual stuff, of course -- but they also explained that they chose little embryonic me, specifically, because I could save my sister, Kate. "We loved you even more," my mother made sure to say, "because we knew what exactly we were getting."
It made me wonder, though, what would have happened if Kate had been healthy. Chances are, I'd still be floating up in Heaven or wherever, waiting to be attached to a body to spend some time on Earth. Certainly I would not be part of this family. See, unlike the rest of the free world, I didn't get here by accident. And if your parents have you for a reason, then that reason better exist. Because once it's gone, so are you.
Pawnshops may be full of junk, but they're also a breeding ground for stories, if you ask me, not that you did. What happened to make a person trade in the Never Before Worn Diamond Solitaire? Who needed money so badly they'd sell a teddy bear missing an eye? As I walk up to the counter, I wonder if someone will look at the locket I'm about to give up, and ask these same questions.
The man at the cash register has a nose the shape of a turnip, and eyes sunk so deep I can't imagine how he sees well enough to go about his business. "Need something?" he asks.
It's all I can do to not turn around and walk out the door, pretend I've come in by mistake. The only thing that keeps me steady is knowing I am not the first person to stand in front of this counter holding the one item in the world I never thought I'd part with.
"I have something to sell," I tell him.
"Am I supposed to guess what it is?"
"Oh." Swallowing, I pull the locket out of the pocket of my jeans. The heart falls on the glass counter in a pool of its own chain. "It's
fourteen-karat gold," I pitch. "Hardly ever worn." This is a lie; until this morning, I haven't taken it off in seven years. My father gave it to me when I was six after the bone marrow harvest, because he said anyone who was giving her sister such a major present deserved one of her own. Seeing it there, on the counter, my neck feels shivery and naked.
The owner puts a loop up to his eye, which makes it seem almost normal size. "I'll give you twenty."
"No, pesos. What did you think?"
"It's worth five times that!" I'm guessing.
The owner shrugs. "I'm not the one who needs the money."
I pick up the locket, resigned to sealing the deal, and the strangest thing happens -- my hand, it just clamps shut like the Jaws of Life. My face goes red with the effort to peel apart my fingers. It takes what seems like an hour for that locket to spill into the owner's outstretched palm. His eyes stay on my face, softer now. "Tell them you lost it," he offers, advice tossed in for free.
If Mr. Webster had decided to put the word freak in his dictionary, Anna Fitzgerald would be the best definition he could give. It's more than just the way I look: refugee-skinny with absolutely no chest to speak of, hair the color of dirt, connect-the-dot freckles on my cheeks that, let me tell you, do not fade with lemon juice or sunscreen or even, sadly, sandpaper. No, God was obviously in some kind of mood on my birthday, because he added to this fabulous physical combination the bigger picture -- the household into which I was born.
My parents tried to make things normal, but that's a relative term. The truth is, I was never really a kid. To be honest, neither were Kate and Jesse. I guess maybe my brother had his moment in the sun for the four years he was alive before Kate got diagnosed, but ever since then, we've been too busy looking over our shoulders to run headlong into growing up. You know how most little kids think they're like cartoon characters -- if an anvil drops on their heads they can peel themselves off the sidewalk and keep going? Well, I never once believed that. How could I, when we practically set a place for Death at the dinner table?
Kate has acute promyelocytic leukemia. Actually, that's not quite true -- right now she doesn't have it, but it's hibernating under her skin like a bear, until it decides to roar again. She was diagnosed when she was two; she's sixteen now. Molecular relapse and granulocyte and portacath -- these words are part of my vocabulary, even though I'll never find them on any SAT. I'm an allogeneic donor -- a perfect sibling match. When Kate needs leukocytes or stem cells or bone marrow to fool her body into thinking it's healthy, I'm the one who provides them. Nearly every time Kate's hospitalized, I wind up there, too.
None of which means anything, except that you shouldn't believe what you hear about me, least of all that which I tell you myself.
As I am coming up the stairs, my mother comes out of her room wearing another ball gown. "Ah," she says, turning her back to me. "Just the girl I wanted to see."
I zip it up and watch her twirl. My mother could be beautiful, if she were parachuted into someone else's life. She has long dark hair and the fine collarbones of a princess, but the corners of her mouth turn down, like she's swallowed bitter news. She doesn't have much free time, since a calendar is something that can change drastically if my sister develops a bruise or a nosebleed, but what she does have she spends at Bluefly.com, ordering ridiculously fancy evening dresses for places she is never going to go. "What do you think?" she asks.
The gown is all the colors of a sunset, and made out of material that swishes when she moves. It's strapless, what a star might wear sashaying down a red carpet -- totally not the dress code for a suburban house in Upper Darby, RI. My mother twists her hair into a knot and holds it in place. On her bed are three other dresses -- one slinky and black, one bugle-beaded, one that seems impossibly small. "You look..."
Tired. The word bubbles right under my lips.
My mother goes perfectly still, and I wonder if I've said it without meaning to. She holds up a hand, shushing me, her ear cocked to the open doorway. "Did you hear that?"
"I didn't hear anything."
But she doesn't take my word for it, because when it comes to Kate she doesn't take anybody's word for it. She marches upstairs and opens up our bedroom door to find my sister hysterical on her bed, and just like that the world collapses again. My father, a closet astronomer, has tried to explain black holes to me, how they are so heavy they absorb everything, even light, right into their center. Moments like this are the same kind of vacuum; no matter what you cling to, you wind up being sucked in.
"Kate!" My mother sinks down to the floor, that stupid skirt a cloud around her. "Kate, honey, what hurts?"
Kate hugs a pillow to her stomach, and tears keep streaming down her face. Her pale hair is stuck to her face in damp streaks; her breathing's too tight. I stand frozen in the doorway of my own room, waiting for instructions: Call Daddy. Call 911. Call Dr. Chance. My mother goes so far as to shake a better explanation out of Kate. "It's Preston," she sobs. "He's leaving Serena for good."
That's when we notice the TV. On the screen, a blond hottie gives a longing look to a woman crying almost as hard as my sister, and then he slams the door. "But what hurts?" my mother asks, certain there has to be more to it than this.
"Oh my God," Kate says, sniffling. "Do you have any idea how much Serena and Preston have been through? Do you?"
That fist inside me relaxes, now that I know it's all right. Normal, in our house, is like a blanket too short for a bed -- sometimes it covers you just fine, and other times it leaves you cold and shaking; and worst of all, you never know which of the two it's going to be. I sit down on the end of Kate's bed. Although I'm only thirteen, I'm taller than her and every now and then people mistakenly assume I'm the older sister. At different times this summer she has been crazy for Callahan, Wyatt, and Liam, the male leads on this soap. Now, I guess, it's all about Preston. "There was the kidnapping scare," I volunteer. I actually followed that story line; Kate made me tape the show during her dialysis sessions.
"And the time she almost married his twin by mistake," Kate adds.
"Don't forget when he died in the boat accident. For two months, anyway." My mother joins the conversation, and I remember that she used to watch this soap, too, sitting with Kate in the hospital.
For the first time, Kate seems to notice my mother's outfit. "What are you wearing?"
"Oh. Something I'm sending back." She stands up in front of me so that I can undo her zipper. This mail-order compulsion, for any other mother, would be a wake-up call for therapy; for my mom, it would probably be considered a healthy break. I wonder if it's putting on someone else's skin for a while that she likes so much, or if it's the option of being able to send back a circumstance that just doesn't suit you. She looks at Kate, hard. "You're sure nothing hurts?"
After my mother leaves, Kate sinks a little. That's the only way to describe it -- how fast color drains from her face, how she disappears against the pillows. As she gets sicker, she fades a little more, until I am afraid one day I will wake up and not be able to see her at all. "Move," Kate orders. "You're blocking the picture."
So I go to sit on my own bed. "It's only the coming attractions."
"Well, if I die tonight I want to know what I'm missing."
I fluff my pillows up under my head. Kate, as usual, has swapped so that she has all the funchy ones that don't feel like rocks under your neck. She's supposed to deserve this, because she's three years older than me or because she's sick or because the moon is in Aquarius -- there's always a reason. I squint at the television, wishing I could flip through the stations, knowing I don't have a prayer. "Preston looks like he's made out of plastic."
"Then why did I hear you whispering his name last night into your pillow?"
"Shut up," I say.
"You shut up." Then Kate smiles at me. "He probably is gay, though. Quite a waste, considering the Fitzgerald sisters are -- " Wincing, she breaks off mid-sentence, and I roll toward her.
She rubs her lower back. "It's nothing."
It's her kidneys. "Want me to get Mom?"
"Not yet." She reaches between our beds, which are just far apart enough for us to touch each other if we both try. I hold out my hand, too. When we were little we'd make this bridge and try to see how many Barbies we could get to balance on it.
Lately, I have been having nightmares, where I'm cut into so many pieces that there isn't enough of me to be put back together.
My father says that a fire will burn itself out, unless you open a window and give it fuel. I suppose that's what I'm doing, when you get right down to it; but then again, my dad also says that when flames are licking at your heels you've got to break a wall or two if you want to escape. So when Kate falls asleep from her meds I take the leather binder I keep between my mattress and box spring and go into the bathroom for privacy. I know Kate's been snooping -- I rigged up a red thread between the zipper's teeth to let me know who was prying into my stuff without my permission, but even though the thread's been torn there's nothing missing inside. I turn on the water in the bathtub so it sounds like I'm in there for a reason, and sit down on the floor to count.
If you add in the twenty dollars from the pawnshop, I have $136.87. It's not going to be enough, but there's got to be a way around that. Jesse didn't have $2,900 when he bought his beat-up Jeep, and the bank gave him some kind of loan. Of course, my parents had to sign the papers, too, and I doubt they're going to be willing to do that for me, given the circumstances. I count the money a second time, just in case the bills have miraculously reproduced, but math is math and the total stays the same. And then I read the newspaper clippings.
Campbell Alexander. It's a stupid name, in my opinion. It sounds like a bar drink that costs too much, or a brokerage firm. But you can't deny the man's track record.
To reach my brother's room, you actually have to leave the house, which is exactly the way he likes it. When Jesse turned sixteen he moved into the attic over the garage -- a perfect arrangement, since he didn't want my parents to see what he was doing and my parents didn't really want to see. Blocking the stairs to his place are four snow tires, a small wall of cartons, and an oak desk tipped onto its side. Sometimes I think Jesse sets up these obstacles himself, just to make getting to him more of a challenge.
I crawl over the mess and up the stairs, which vibrate with the bass from Jesse's stereo. It takes nearly five whole minutes before he hears me knocking. "What?" he snaps, opening the door a crack.
"Can I come in?"
He thinks twice, then steps back to let me enter. The room is a sea of dirty clothes and magazines and leftover Chinese take-out cartons; it smells like the sweaty tongue of a hockey skate. The only neat spot is the shelf where Jesse keeps his special collection -- a Jaguar's silver mascot, a Mercedes symbol, a Mustang's horse -- hood ornaments that he told me he just found lying around, although I'm not dumb enough to believe him.
Don't get me wrong -- it isn't that my parents don't care about Jesse or whatever trouble he's gotten himself mixed up in. It's just that they don't really have time to care about it, because it's a problem somewhere lower on the totem pole.
Jesse ignores me, going back to whatever he was doing on the far side of the mess. My attention is caught by a Crock-Pot -- one that disappeared out of the kitchen a few months ago -- which now sits on top of Jesse's TV with a copper tube threaded out of its lid and down through a plastic milk jug filled with ice, emptying into a glass Mason jar. Jesse may be a borderline delinquent, but he's brilliant. Just as I'm about to touch the contraption, Jesse turns around. "Hey!" He fairly flies over the couch to knock my hand away. "You'll screw up the condensing coil."
"Is this what I think it is?"
A nasty grin itches over his face. "Depends on what you think it is." He jimmies out the Mason jar, so that liquid drips onto the carpet. "Have a taste."
For a still made out of spit and glue, it produces pretty potent moonshine whiskey. An inferno races so fast through my belly and legs I fall back onto the couch. "Disgusting," I gasp.
Jesse laughs and takes a swig, too, although for him it goes down easier. "So what do you want from me?"
"How do you know I want something?"
"Because no one comes up here on a social call," he says, sitting on the arm of the couch. "And if it was something about Kate, you would've already told me."
"It is about Kate. Sort of." I press the newspaper clippings into my brother's hand; they'll do a better job explaining than I ever could. He scans them, then looks me right in the eye. His are the palest shade of silver, so surprising that sometimes when he stares at you, you can completely forget what you were planning to say.
"Don't mess with the system, Anna," he says bitterly. "We've all got our scripts down pat. Kate plays the Martyr. I'm the Lost Cause. And you, you're the Peacekeeper."
He thinks he knows me, but that goes both ways -- and when it comes to friction, Jesse is an addict. I look right at him. "Says who?"
Jesse agrees to wait for me in the parking lot. It's one of the few times I can recall him doing anything I tell him to do. I walk around to the front of the building, which has two gargoyles guarding its entrance.
Campbell Alexander, Esquire's office is on the third floor. The walls are paneled with wood the color of a chestnut mare's coat, and when I step onto the thick Oriental rug on the floor, my sneakers sink an inch. The secretary is wearing black pumps so shiny I can see my own face in them. I glance down at my cutoffs and the Keds that I tattooed last week with Magic Markers when I was bored.
The secretary has perfect skin and perfect eyebrows and honeybee lips, and she's using them to scream bloody murder at whoever's on the other end of the phone. "You cannot expect me to tell a judge that. Just because you don't want to hear Kleman rant and rave doesn't mean that I have to...no, actually, that raise was for the exceptional job I do and the crap I put up with on a daily basis, and as a matter of fact, while we're on -- " She holds the phone away from her ear; I can make out the buzz of disconnection. "Bastard," she mutters, and then seems to realize I'm standing three feet away. "Can I help you?"
She looks me over from head to toe, rating me on a general scale of first impressions, and finding me severely lacking. I lift my chin and pretend to be far more cool than I actually am. "I have an appointment with Mr. Alexander. At four o'clock."
"Your voice," she says. "On the phone, you didn't sound quite so..."
She smiles uncomfortably. "We don't try juvenile cases, as a rule.
If you'd like I can offer you the names of some practicing attorneys who -- "
I take a deep breath. "Actually," I interrupt, "you're wrong. Smith v. Whately, Edmunds v. Womens and Infants Hospital, and Jerome v. the Diocese of Providence all involved litigants under the age of eighteen. All three resulted in verdicts for Mr. Alexander's clients. And those were just in the past year."
The secretary blinks at me. Then a slow smile toasts her face, as if she's decided she just might like me after all. "Come to think of it, why don't you just wait in his office?" she suggests, and she stands up to show me the way.
Even if I spend every minute of the rest of my life reading, I do not believe that I will ever manage to consume the sheer number of words routed high and low on the walls of Campbell Alexander, Esquire's office. I do the math -- if there are 400 words or so on every page, and each of those legal books are 400 pages, and there are twenty on a shelf and six shelves per bookcase -- why, you're pushing nineteen million words, and that's only partway across the room.
I'm alone in the office long enough to note that his desk is so neat, you could play Chinese football on the blotter; that there is not a single photo of a wife or a kid or even himself; and that in spite of the fact that the room is spotless, there's a mug full of water sitting on the floor.
I find myself making up explanations: it's a swimming pool for an army of ants. It's some kind of primitive humidifier. It's a mirage.
I've nearly convinced myself about that last one, and am leaning over to touch it to see if it's real, when the door bursts open. I practically fall out of my chair and that puts me eye to eye with an incoming German shepherd, which spears me with a look and then marches over to the mug and starts to drink.
Campbell Alexander comes in, too. He's got black hair and he's at least as tall as my dad -- six feet -- with a right-angle jaw and eyes that look frozen over. He shrugs out of a suit jacket and hangs it neatly on the back of the door, then yanks a file out of a cabinet before moving to his desk. He never makes eye contact with me, but he starts talking all the same. "I don't want any Girl Scout cookies," Campbell Alexander says. "Although you do get Brownie points for tenacity. Ha." He smiles at his own joke.
"I'm not selling anything."
He glances at me curiously, then pushes a button on his phone. "Kerri," he says when the secretary answers. "What is this doing in my office?"
"I'm here to retain you," I say.
The lawyer releases the intercom button. "I don't think so."
"You don't even know if I have a case."
I take a step forward; so does the dog. For the first time I realize it's wearing one of those vests with a red cross on it, like a St. Bernard that might carry rum up a snowy mountain. I automatically reach out to pet him. "Don't," Alexander says. "Judge is a service dog."
My hand goes back to my side. "But you aren't blind."
"Thank you for pointing that out to me."
"So what's the matter with you?"
The minute I say it, I want to take it back. Haven't I watched Kate field this question from hundreds of rude people?
"I have an iron lung," Campbell Alexander says curtly, "and the dog keeps me from getting too close to magnets. Now, if you'd do me the exalted honor of leaving, my secretary can find you the name of someone who -- "
But I can't go yet. "Did you really sue God?" I take out all the newspaper clippings, smooth them on the bare desk.
A muscle tics in his cheek, and then he picks up the article lying on top. "I sued the Diocese of Providence, on behalf of a kid in one of their orphanages who needed an experimental treatment involving fetal tissue, which they felt violated Vatican II. However, it makes a much better headline to say that a nine-year-old is suing God for being stuck with the short end of the straw in life." I just stare at him. "Dylan Jerome," the lawyer admits, "wanted to sue God for not caring enough about him."
A rainbow might as well have cracked down the middle of that big mahogany desk. "Mr. Alexander," I say, "my sister has leukemia."
"I'm sorry to hear that. But even if I were willing to litigate against God again, which I'm not, you can't bring a lawsuit on someone else's behalf."
There is way too much to explain -- my own blood seeping into my sister's veins; the nurses holding me down to stick me for white cells Kate might borrow; the doctor saying they didn't get enough the first time around. The bruises and the deep bone ache after I gave up my marrow; the shots that sparked more stem cells in me, so that there'd be extra for my sister. The fact that I'm not sick, but I might as well be. The fact that the only reason I was born was as a harvest crop for Kate. The fact that even now, a major decision about me is being made, and no one's bothered to ask the one person who most deserves it to speak her opinion.
There's way too much to explain, and so I do the best I can. "It's not God. Just my parents," I say. "I want to sue them for the rights to my own body."
Copyright © 2004 by Jodi Picoult
Reading Group Guide
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1) One of this novel's strengths is the way it skillfully demonstrates the subjectivity people bring to their interactions with others. The motivations of individual characters, the emotions that pull them one way or another, and the personal feelings that they inject into professional situations becomes achingly clear as we explore many different viewpoints. For example, despite Julia and Campbell's attempts to remain calm, unemotional and businesslike when they deal with one another, the past keeps seeping in, clouding their interaction. The same goes for the interaction between Sara and Anna during the trial. Is there such a thing as an objective decision in the world of this story? Is anyone capable of being totally rational, or do emotions always come into play?
2) What do you think of this story's representation of the justice system? What was your opinion of the final outcome of the trial?
3) What is your opinion of Sara? With her life focused on saving Kate, she sometimes neglects her other children. Jesse is rapidly becoming a juvenile delinquent, and Anna is invisible -- a fact that the little girl knows only too well. What does this say about Sara's role as a mother? What would you have done in her shoes? Has she unwittingly forgotten Jesse and Anna, or do you think she has consciously chosen to neglect them -- either as an attempt to save a little energy for herself, or as some kind of punishment? Does Sara resent her other children for being healthy? Did you find yourself criticizing Sara, empathizing with her, or both?
4) During a conversation about Kate, Zanne tells Sara, "No one has to be a martyr 24/7." When she mistakenly hears the word "mother" not "martyr" and is corrected by Zanne, Sara smiles and asks, "Is there a difference?" In what ways does this moment provide insight into Sara's state of mind? Do you think it strange that she sees no difference between motherhood and martyrhood?
5) Campbell is certainly a fascinating character: guarded, intelligent, caring and yet selfish at the same time. Due to these seemingly contradictory traits, it can be difficult to figure him out. As he himself admits, "motivations are not what they seem to be." At one point he states, "Out of necessity -- medical and emotional -- I have gotten rather skilled at being an escape artist." Why do you think Campbell feels that he needs to hide his illness? Is it significant that Anna is the first to break down his barriers and hear the truth? Why, for example, does he flippantly dismiss all questions regarding Judge with sarcastic remarks?
6) At one point, Campbell thinks to himself: "There are two reasons not to tell the truth -- because lying will get you what you want, and because lying will keep someone from getting hurt." With this kind of thinking, Campbell gives himself an amazingly wide berth; he effectively frees himself from speaking any semblance of the truth as long as the lie will somehow benefit himself or anyone else. Did it concern you that a lawyer would express an opinion like this? Do you think, by the end of the story, that Campbell still thinks this moral flexibility is okay? In what ways might this kind of thinking actually wind up hurting Campbell?
7) It is interesting that Campbell suffers seizures that only his dog can foresee. How might this unique relationship mirror some of the relationships between humans in this novel? In what ways does Judge introduce important ideas about loyalty and instinct?
8) On page 149, Brian is talking to Julia about astronomy and says, "Dark matter has a gravitational effect on other objects. You can't see it, you can't feel it, but you can watch something being pulled in its direction." How is this symbolic of Kate's illness? What might be a possible reason for Brian's fascination with astronomy?
9) Near the end of the novel, Anna describes "Ifspeak" -- the language that all children know, but abandon as they grow older -- remarking that "Kids think with their brains cracked wide open; becoming an adult, I've decided, is only a slow sewing shut." Do you believe this to be true? What might children teach the adults in this novel? Which adults need lessons most?
10) "It's more like we're astronauts, each wearing a separate helmet, each sustained by our own source of air." This quote comes from Anna, as she and her parents sit in silence in the hospital cafeteria. Besides being a powerful image of the family members' isolation, this observation shows Anna to be one of the wisest, most perceptive characters in this novel. Discuss the alienation affecting these characters. While it is obvious that Anna's decision to sue her parents increases that sense of alienation throughout the novel (especially for Anna herself), do you think that she has permanently harmed the family dynamic?
11) During the trial, when Dr. Campbell takes the stand, he describes the rules by which the medical ethics committee, of which he is a part, rules their cases. Out of these six principles (autonomy, veracity, fidelity, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice), which apply to Anna's lawsuit? Moreover, which of these should be applied to Anna's home situation? In other words, do you think a parent might have anything to learn from the guidelines that the doctors follow? Are there family ethics that ought to be put into place to ensure positive family dynamics? I so, what should they be?
12) Early in the legal proceedings, Anna makes a striking observation as she watches her mother slip back into her lawyer role, noting, "It is hard to believe that my mother used to do this for a living. She used to be someone else, once. I suppose we all were." Discuss the concept of change as it is presented in this story. While most of the characters seem to undergo a metamorphosis of sorts -- either emotionally or even physically (in the case of Kate), some seem more adept at it than others. Who do you think is ultimately the most capable of undergoing change and why?
13) Discuss the symbolic role that Jesse's pyromania plays in this novel, keeping in mind the following quote from Brian: "How does someone go from thinking that if he cannot rescue, he must destroy?" Why is it significant that Jesse has, in many respects, become the polar opposite of his father? But despite this, why is Jesse often finding himself in the reluctant hero position (saving Rat, delivering the baby at boot camp)? Brian himself comes to realize, in the scene where he confronts Jesse, that he and his son aren't so different. Talk about the traits that they share and the new understanding that they gain for each other by the end of the story.
14) My Sister's Keeper explores the moral, practical and emotional complications of putting one human being in pain or in danger for the well being of another. Discuss the different kinds of ethical problems that Anna, as the "designer baby," presents in this story? Did your view change as the story progressed? Why or why not? Has this novel changed any of your opinions about other conflicts in bioethics like stem cell research or genetically manipulated offspring?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have not read an intriguing and interesting book in a while. So, I was in search of ¿one of those books that you can hardly put down¿. As I skimmed through a list of various best-selling novels, I came across My Sister¿s Keeper by Jodi Picoult, which was recommended to me. Immediately I picked up the book and began to read. Sure enough, this book was nearly impossible for me to stop reading. After reading this book, I gleaned that Picoult is a fascinating writer, and this was definitely no banal story. If you are in search of a brilliantly written novel with a very interesting story line, then I would definitely recommend My Sister¿s Keeper by Jodi Picoult.
My Sister¿s Keeper is the story of a thirteen-year-old girl, Anna Fitzgerald, who was conceived as a bone marrow match for her older sister, Kate, who has leukemia. Anna has been a donor for Kate her entire life, and this story revolves around her sudden opposition and dilemmas regarding this situation. The reader is immediately enthralled to the plot the moment Anna makes an astonishing decision in one of the beginning chapters, which the rest of the story revolves around. My Sister¿s Keeper is also the story of family life and revolves around the family¿s struggle to maintain their love and support for each other. It describes how no family is perfect, and forces you to love the Fitzgerald family and feel their pain through their many hardships. It was very difficult for me to put the book down and stop reading because I was so anxious to discover the ending result of this predicament that takes place throughout the entire novel. I was shocked by the unwonted resolution, however was very satisfied. I believe this is an ideal ending because the reader cannot even predict how the story will conclude, and it is a summation to all of the present conflicts. Picoult does an excellent job at writing this end result.
The author of My Sister¿s Keeper, Jodi Picoult has a very unique and compelling writing style that gets readers hooked to her books instantaneously. Her use of description is extremely skillful, and I felt as if I were present in the plot of the story. A component of her writing that I liked was her use of numerous flashbacks. I enjoyed reading them when they appeared because it helps the reader to understand the current situation or feeling she is writing about. They were often very interesting to read, and they gave me great insight to future events in the book. Another characteristic that I am pleased by is the fact that each chapter in the novel is told by a different significant character. I value this because it is interesting to see each person¿s perspective and feelings on a certain event or circumstance. By doing this, Picoult also creates a sense of unbiased feeling. It restricts the reader from having an unfair opinion about a specific character, and allows them to create their own opinions about each character.
If you enjoy reading novels about everyday life and the complications that arise in it, then I would recommend My Sister¿s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult. Especially if you enjoy an intriguing storyline that is exceptionally well written, be sure to pick up a copy of this book. Picoult is an exceptionally fascinating writer, and after reading this masmasterpiece I will be sure to read one her other novels in the near future. It is a book of emotion, attachment, and suffering that keeps the reader interested for the entire story.
If you like well length books that will keep you intrigued until the end and is completely awesome, this is your type of book. If you watched the movie YOU WILL ABSOLUTELY LOVE THE BOOK! READ READ READ!!
My wife had told me to read this book for a long time because she knows I enjoy multiperspective stories. It was a really good but heartbreaking story. As a parent of two healthy children I know I am very lucky.
Anna Fitzgerald is the thirteen year old protagonist of My Sister¿s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult. She was brought into this world for one reason and one reason only. She was conceived to save her older sister Kate, who at age two was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia. With the help of advanced medical science, Sara and Brian Fitzgerald, Kate¿s parents, had the opportunity to conceive a baby who was an exact donor match for Kate. So began Anna Fitzgerald¿s life of self sacrifice.
From the time she was born, Anna has been helping her sister Kate. Immediately after birth, her blood was drawn to donate to Kate. There was not time to waste; Kate¿s life was at stake. In the years that followed Anna donated lymphocytes three times, then a bone marrow, and then blood stem cells. She became disheartened with her role in life. Although Kate was her best friend, Anna wanted her parents to love her for who she was. Not because she was saving her sister. When Anna¿s parents tell her she has to donate a kidney to keep Kate alive, she breaks down. She has spent as much time in the hospital as Kate and just wants to be free of obligation. To that end, Anna seeks out the services of a highly driven attorney, Campbell Alexander. His job is to help Anna get medical emancipation from her parents.
Along with the medical drama, Picoult infuses humor, romance, family troubles and intriguing subplots throughout the novel. This book is tear-jerking, uplifting, emotional, heart-wrenching and an extremely powerful story about the Fitzgerald family. The author clearly illustrates how this family is united by their love for each other, but divided on where the boundaries of family obligations should be. This confession leads to Anna and her father Brian moving out to stay at the fire station where Brian works. They leave their depart home, leaving behind Sara, the overpowering mother, Kate, the dying sister, and Jesse, the helpless older brother.
Jodi Picoult has an incredible capability of captivating her readers as they struggle to find answers to the moral questions she presents. She presents both sides of the conflict with such compassion and sympathy that your beliefs may change. The authors writing style is creative, as each chapter is narrated by a different character. The reader gets to know each character and understand their point of view in the ongoing struggle.
When finished with the novel you will realize there are no easy or even right answers. One person can not be judged for what they believe is moral or ethical, or even tenable. Picoult has done an outstanding job of presenting the issue in this novel. She takes this conflicting topic and handles it with an infinite amount of insight to each characters needs. My Sister¿s Keeper examines what it means to be good parents, a good sister and a good person. The novel engages the reader from the first page until the very last. It is a heart-wrenching novel with an unexpected plot twist at the book¿s conclusion. This book is an absolute must read!
Well written story. Very touching.
This book had me in tears. It made me cry and cry, laugh,smile, scream so loud people around me thought I was crazy, dance around in public and sob in my pillow for half an hour. This book is the definition of amazing, brilliant, fantastic, and beautiful. The characters touched my heart so much. And the ending. To me. Was perfect. And though it wasnt happy. This book isnt for peoplr who want a "they all lived happily ever after" story. Its for people who want to know real life. What acctualy happens. And how unfair it is. This book was so beautiful. I didnt want it to end. Thank you Judi. You have taught me a lesson. And you are truly perfect. And you have created a flawless story. Thank you. So much.
My Sister's Keeper is a powerful novel about a strong willed thirteen year old filing a lawsuit against her own family. The independent teen, Anna Fitzgerald, has decided to seek legal help when she decides that she no longer wants to be the life support of her sick sister Kate. Providing blood transfusions, injections, and countless surgeries, she decides that she no longer wants to be known only in relation to Kate. Now thirteen, Anna puts her foot down and fights for the right to medical emancipation. Aware the brutal consequences of this act, Anna battles with her mother with her decisions and with finding herself individually along the way. In and out of court, Anna has to deal with the guilt and expectations of her family to save her sisters life. This novel is filled with humor, romance, and tear jerking words when Kate meets a boy with Cancer and falls in love. Throughout a few chapters, Kate is doing well when suddenly the unexpected happens and her dear friend dies from his disease. This goes to show how the author (Jodi Picoult) can really use the element of surprise, and really throw you for a loop; this is one of the books many strengths, you never know what is going to happen next! The book is written from a perspective that I have never read from before. Jodi writes from all the main character's perspectives, to give you the best idea of all that is going on. The writing is not always proper, and I personally found that this made it more interesting when Picoult occasionally used the slang and slander of a common teenager. My Sister's Keeper is the story of a struggling family, which teaches the wonderful lesson of being thankful for all that you have in your life. I personally will take away from this book, that I should always be gracious for health of my family." You can stay up all night and still not count the ways to lose people you love." This is a great book, I strongly would suggest it!
JodiÊPicoult has done it again, written a moving novel based on a controversial subject, and done so with grace, sensitivity and aplomb. Touching on many of the issues concerning the genetic conception and the use of cord blood, and it's potential for misuse, this novel reads like a story ripped from the headlines, and then successfully pulls you into the Fitzgerald home, lives and hearts. You too, find your self faced with the dilemas of 'How far is too far.' And then, just when you are sure you have made your decision, the foundation crumbles beneath you. Hard to put down... I highly reccomend, 'My Sister's Keeper.'
Still Picoult's best book ever, and she's provided a multitude of excellent reads. If you have a sister, this will make an effect. Ask her to read it too.
I love Jodi's approach of each chapter being narrated by a different character. And the ending couldn't be better!
No movie will compare to the book. Heart warming and heart wrenching all at once.
When I read this book, I felt for the charaters because they were quite belivable and when the end came I cried because it was very unexpected... This book is a must read.
This book kept me captivated the entire time I was reading it. I never expected the ending....sad ending....
I read this book after reading and enjoying Perfect Match. The subject matter and presentation of the story line in this book was more interesting. There are several overlaps though: mother is lawyer who thinks she's unbeatable, mother neglects everyone but sick or damaged child, blue collar husband who is emotional anchor, drawn out legal battle, etc. I guess what bothers me most is as a reader I appreciate good characterization so I don't want to be duped at the end by a surprise, implausible ending which occurred in both books.
This book is a keeper! I loved My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult and think it deserves five stars. Thirteen-year-old Anna Fitzgerald is her leukemic sister Kate’s blood and possible-kidney donor. She is faced with a decision that could leave many people unhappy. Should she donate one of her genetically-matched kidneys to Kate when she doesn’t want to? Sara, Anna’s mother, does everything she can to keep Kate alive, even at the expense of her other children. The author uses multiple perspectives to bring Sara’s motivations to light. Campbell can make you laugh, while you sympathize for the neglected Jesse. Ms. Picoult also displayed a deep understanding of leukemia treatment and legal processions. I was pleased with the decision Judge DeSalvo made in Anna’s case. The figurative language is like chocolate chip cookies. Brian and Anna use the most metaphors and symbolisms. The end is shocking, but satisfactory enough to bring closure to the Fitzgerald household. All in all, I recommend this five-star worthy book to you. SaumyaCHMS14
This is honestly one of the best books I have ever read. The last five pages and epilogue brought me to tears. A great concept and extremely well written. I enjoyed reading Jesse's and Campbells point of view. This is a book I will be sure to recommmened and read again.
AMAZING STORY! Could not put the book down! Just mad that the movie did not follow the book! I highly recomend to read the book first.!
I am in the middle of this book. I think it is awesome after all. But what I herd was that it is sad :( but I all ready new that. I think anyone will like it.
I really wasn't sure if I was going to even like this book. This is not usually the type of book that I read. I was surprised once I started reading I that I could not put it down. I finished it in two days. The subject behind the plot was so interesting. I found myself wondering what I would do in a similar situation. I even asked my friends what they would do if it was happening to them. The characters were so involving. I could relate to each and every character, on some level. Jodi Picoult is an amazing writer I would definately read another one of her books. The emotion just seeps off the page. I cried, laughed, and was even angry at one point or another throughout the book. The ending was a complete surprise for me. Just when you think you have everything figured out a new twist reveals itself. A great book for a long weekend because once you start you won't be able to wait to see what happens.
The charecters were extremely easy to relate to and I found myself easily involved in the story. Jodi Picoult draws you in and leaves the reader wanting more and more! What amazing story about the joy and love of not only an extraordinary sisterly bond, but also the adaptation that families endure when such a tragedy as cancer is present in one they love! I would recommend this wonderful story to anyone!
I was skeptical of the writing style at first b/c I thought "too many characters to keep straight"....but WOW, was I proved wrong. It's necessary for this story. So necessary and refreshing to get so many character's perspectives. One minute you've made up your mind to hate one of the characters and you're screaming "How could you do this to your daughter?" and the next minute, the 'mom' in you is saying "Ohhhh....ok, I get it...it's scary that I can see your point, what would I do in this situation...." I would sit on that fence post and just as I start to climb over to one side, some event is told (at just the right moment) that makes me pull my foot back up. What a wobbly fence that was. Powerful Story. Powerful Characters. Awesome Read! I've been running around begging everyone I know to read it. Yes, there are sad parts, but it's not depressing. The whole novel is SO thought provoking!!
I really enjoyed reading this one, a real page-turner. If you like Jodi Picoult, you will not disappointed.
I absolutely loved this book! I love how each chapter was a different character every time. It had several surprises throughout the book. I never wanted to put it down and now i want to find another book that I'll love reading just as much.
I really enjoyed this book and it stays with you long after you have read it. It was alot that I really wasnt expecting but it was very good. The characters all have their own story to tell and I really liked that.