Monday, March 19, 2018

Book Review: My Sister’s Keeper

I chanced upon this book in August 2017. While I and some colleagues were waiting for our turns to donate blood, I found this book on the shelves and gave it a try. Naturally, I didn’t get to finish the book, let alone read through chapter 1, although I didn’t get to donate blood either because I left all my IDs in the office. But I couldn’t forget about the book and here praises go to Jodi Picoult for starting the book with some really thought provoking ideas.

Fast forward to 6 months after, I finally secured myself a copy of the book. For the past few years in my life since I started my CPA, I have lost my passion for reading books. Even after I took a break from studying, I found myself struggling to get back into the passion. In fact, before My Sister’s Keeper, I have attempted reading a number of books but haven’t got close to finishing a chapter before I give up altogether. My Sister’s Keeper kind of triggered the passion. In less than 2 weeks I was able to finish the book. Actually, correct that. It was technically 4 days (2 weekends), because I couldn’t really touch it on weekdays due to a busy schedule. Mind you, I was dying to read it though. It is one of those books that are very hard to put down.

The story starts with a prologue that I couldn’t quite fully understand even when I finished the book. The prologue was written in the first person and I am unsure who was speaking. Nevertheless, I have a guess for I knew who in the story died and lived.

Chapter 1 was written in Anna’s voice, a 13-year-old girl who was born for a specific purpose. She was genetically engineered as a perfect match as a donor for her sister, Kate, who was gravely ill with acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). She had always been a “willing” donor until she turned 13 when she sought help from a lawyer for medical emancipation.

The succeeding chapters were told from various points of views: From Sara, the mother, who tells the story from a historical point of view, of how Kate was diagnosed with APL, of how Anna was born with saving Kate in mind. From the point of view of Jesse, the eldest son who was mostly overlooked since Kate has been diagnosed with the sickness. From Brian, the father, from Anna herself and of less importance from Campbell and Julia, and finally from Kate. Jodi Picoult had used this strategy really well. Unlike my experience with “Please Look After Mother,” which was the first book I have read written in this style, Jodi Picoult was able to use the strategy to her advantage – it enhanced the emotions and the chance to relate to each character more profoundly. It was a safe way to present the controversial issue of genetically engineered babies and let the readers decide for themselves what is morally acceptable.

Personally, when I got to the part where Sara found out that her 2 year old daughter was sick with APL, I was devastated myself. As a mother, I can relate to the agony of having to deal with this situation however, if I had been in Sara’s place, there wouldn’t be a story. I disliked the idea of conceiving another child just so her organs could be harvested and used to extend the life of another. Although the author explained that initially, it was just the umbilical cord blood, the fact that Anna was conceived with the other child in mind for me is quite painful.

This was the feeling I shared with Anna in the beginning of the story. She was fully aware that she was conceived to save her sister and in fact wondered if she would have existed if Kate had not fallen ill and it hurt me so to the point that I cried for her. Not that I do not love Kate, if I were in Sara’s shoes. But as a mother of 2 girls, I know I could not choose between the two. I could never love one over the other. It would definitely break Sara’s heart to see Kate die, but that is how I would have let the story end if I were her. The end of the story only proved to me that Sara did love Kate better – and I detest the character for it.

Anyway, it’s been weeks since I have finished the book and I have moved on. I just didn’t want to start reading another book until I have put into words what I thought about this one. All in all, I would give it 5 stars despite my disagreement with some of the ideas because Jodi Picoult is to be praised for coming up with such an extraordinary novel involving the complexities of medical science, law and a controversial issue. Not to mention this book has marked the debut of getting back into the passion of reading.

5 ✯✯✯✯✯

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