Imagine being thirteen years old, and knowing, without the slightest shadow of a doubt, that you were conceived for a specific purpose.
Anna Fitzgerald was selected from several other embryos by her parents, Sara and Brian, because she was as close a genetic match as possible to her older sister, Kate. Kate was dying of cancer, and none of the treatments were working anymore. Anna was created to save her sister’s life.
Anna donated chord blood when she was born. Then she donated blood to Kate, several times, screaming as the doctors held her down. Anna had to take shots every day for a while so her body would produce an extra amount of the things that Kate’s body needed. Kate received Anna’s bone marrow more than once.
All of these procedures are painful and frightening, especially for a young child. Despite being healthy, Anna has had countless medical procedures done to her, and has been hospitalized many times. Now, Kate needs a kidney.
At the start of My Sister’s Keeper, Anna has scraped together money, and hired an attorney. She wants to be medically emancipated, so she can make her own decisions about what happens to her body.
This is the kind of book where none of the characters are good guys, but none are evil, either. Sara and Brian love all three of their children, but, because Kate is incredibly sick, she gets most of their attention. In desperation, they choose actions that might help Kate, but might also harm Anna.
Anna, like many young teens, wants independence, and space to figure out who she is. She and Kate are best friends as well as sisters, and this makes things harder. Anna wants the opportunity to live her own life; Kate wants to live. Neither one wants to hurt the other.
Jesse, the girl’s older brother, has gotten the least amount of parental attention. He loves both his sisters very much, and the strain of it all drives him to do what he can to help each of them, and also to drink and commit crimes.
Sara quit her job as a lawyer to become a full time mother, so she could really participate in the lives of her children. Now, she finds her identity reduced to “mother of the girl with cancer”, and she cannot see anything except Kate.
Brian loves his family very much, but, finds himself spending more and more time at the firehouse where he works, because putting out fires is less traumatic than dealing with what he faces at home. Nobody in this book is perfect, no one is blameless.
This is a book that makes you think. Is it ever moral to create a child to use as a donor for a sick sibling? Can you be a good parent and not try absolutely everything with the slightest hope of saving your dying child? Does the child created as a donor ever get to make choices for themselves, or is that a selfish thing to do? Picoult raises these questions, but she allows the reader to draw his or her own conclusions.
If you are looking for a book that will give your book group a whole lot of issues to talk about, this would be a great selection. In addition to the main story, there are subplots woven throughout.
Campbell, Anna’s attorney, plays a prominent role. This is a man who is hiding things. He has a service dog, but refuses to tell anyone why he needs the dog. He also has had a past relationship with Julia, the woman who is assigned by the court to figure out what is in Anna’s best interest. There is much unfinished business between the two of them, which complicates the court case, and everything else.
The ending of this book is sudden, and unexpected, and filled with mixed emotions. I am still not entirely certain I liked the ending, but, I cannot think of a better way to do it. It works, and it’s very well written, but, like everything else in this story, the ending is filled with both positives and negatives. This is one I book I will be thinking about long after I finish writing this review.