Friday, June 12, 2009

My Sister's Keeper

Any Jodi Picoult fans out there? Of course, I ask this in jest. There must be legions, because she's written sixteen books. This was my first book by Jodi Picoult, so I didn't know what to expect when I picked up a copy of My Sister's Keeper. This bestselling author paints a powerful and sometimes painful picture of a family in turmoil. Even though I had a general sense of the book from the back cover, I didn't expect to be so touched by this book, or to have my eyes fill up with tears so frequently.

Published in 2004, My Sister's Keeper is the story of a family, the Fitzgeralds, whose daughter, Kate, has been diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia, called APL, at the age of 2. Her parents, Sara and Brian, attempt to keep Kate alive by having a third child through in vitro fertilization, one who will be a perfect genetic match for Kate. Soon after Anna is born, she donates her cord blood, which is rich in stem cells, to Kate. When the leukemia returns Anna donates blood and bone marrow. This is just the beginning of a series of medical procedures which Anna endures for years to help prolong her sister's life. But Kate's chronic, life-threatening illness takes a heavy toll on the entire family, including her destructive brother, Jesse, who is having a particularly hard time coping. When Kate's kidneys fail at the age of 16, Anna, who is 13, is expected to donate one of her kidneys--this is Kate's only chance for survival. But instead Anna hires a lawyer, Campbell (who works for her pro bono), to help her become medically emancipated from her parents in order that she may gain the right to make her own medical decisions. Let me stop here, because I don't want to give away too much of the plot of this book, which is beautiful, heartbreaking, and honest, and also surprising at times. It asks us to consider important questions, to which there are no simple or easy answers, such as how much we are willing to do and sacrifice for those we love.

Each chapter in this book is told by the point of view of the various main characters--Anna, Kate, Jesse, Sara, Brian, Campbell, and Julia. I don't always like shifting perspectives in books, but it works well here and tells the story from many points of view, giving readers a broader understanding of the characters and issues involved.

You've probably seen the billboards for My Sister's Keeper, which will be released as a movie starring Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin, and Joan Cusack, on June 26, 2009. I'll bring tissues to the movie theater when I go see it. If you go, I advise you to do the same.

View the movie trailer for My Sister's Keeper.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts on My Sister's Keeper or recommend other books by Jodi Picoult in the comments. (Read comments for the main differences between the book and the movie.)


  1. I read it a while ago and didn't quite like it, but I can see why some people might :). I hope to see the movie though. I may enjoy it more.

  2. Oh I've read The Pact and The Tenth Circle (hey, a quick google showed that it has been made into a movie too- though perhaps a less well-known one. I haven't heard of it). I think I like them more than My Sister's Keeper. But each to their own.

  3. My Sister's Keeper was the first book I read by Picoult, too. I loved it and marveled at her ability to help us see the perspective of the different people involved. I look forward to seeing the movie. I know I've read something else by Picoult but can't remember what.

  4. I havent read Picoult, but I need to read this one. My friend read it and told me it made her cry. The movie does look good.

  5. Thank you all for taking the time to comment.
    Additional comments are also always welcomed.

  6. Hi!
    I have read so much about this book, but have been hesitant about reading it. Thanks for the review, I'll definitely be reading this book. Thanks for stopping by my place. Have a great day!


  7. I read this book a couple years ago- it was my first Picoult book too and I loved it. I remember reading it in the car- we arrived at my mother in law's house and everybody else got out but I was riveted to the book and sat there in the car for another hour to finish it. I read a couple other Picoult books after that but I started to recognize a pattern to her books and that bugged me so I stopped.

    By the way, I love your blog! This is my first visit.

  8. This was also my first Picoult book and I feel it was her best novel.

  9. Suko, I enjoy reading Jodi Picoult books.
    My Sister's Keeper was very good, but very sad.
    It will be interesting to see how the movie plays out.

    My very favorite book of hers is Plain Truth.

    My first visit here, very nice!

  10. I can't wait to watch this movie. I was a huge fan of the book and am hoping that this book, unlike other books, will be adapted into a really good movie. Have you seen the promos? Cameron Diaz seems amazing for the part. I love the interview she did alongside Sofia.

    I'm excited for Friday!

  11. Hey, thanks to everyone who took the time to comment. : )

    I hope to see the movie on Friday.

  12. I have not read any Jodi Picoult, but I'd like to see this movie, so perhaps this will be my first book of hers.

  13. Update: I must admit that my tears flowed freely as I watched the movie last Friday. In an emotional mood already, this movie did me in.

    The most notable difference between the book and the movie is the ending.

    Other differences include Jesse's character (which is toned down for the movie), and the absence of the character Julia (Campbell's former love) in the movie. Also, Judge DeSalvo is a man in the book and a woman in the movie.

  14. At first I thought that the book was abit ordinary and I read through the pages quickly waiting for the hook. It was only a matter of chapters before the author's gift of language and emotion nuance flooded my experience and I realized how much of a talent Jodi Picoult is. I hadn't read anything else by her and just picked the book after reading a summary about it in a women's magazine. I liked the fact that it involved the relationship between two sister's (and a brother) as I am from a family of four sisters.

    After the first third of the book, I could not wait to get back to reading it and finished the final two thirds in one sweep. I could not hold back the tears in the final chapters. The book is a great read, and informative about illness and its' effects on family dynamics.


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